On Monday, the faculty and staff of Rowan University gathered around the Robinson clock tower to generate awareness of the mistreatment they have been receiving from the state government.
Since July, teachers all over New Jersey have been working without contracts. This is not the first time something like this has happened. The last time teachers went without contracts, they were able to negotiate and resolve the issue within a year. However, with New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie making an attempt to run for president of the United States, he has been absent from the state and has not been able to work on policies regarding educators.
“We’ve been getting beat up,” said Joseph Basso Associate Professor in the Department of Public Relations and Advertising and president of the American Federation of Teachers at Rowan. “We’re getting lost in the shuffle.”
The rally was led by AFT and coordinated by Dr. Amy Woodworth, instructor in the Writing Arts Department and First-Year Writing Program (FYWP) Assistant Coordinator.
“We’re not going to sit passively, we’re going to get louder and louder,” Woodworth said.
Since July, teachers have been working with less than what was originally promised and without health benefits. Although they are seeking negotiation, they don’t see a contract coming anytime soon. The general consensus of the group was that they wouldn’t be seeing a new contract until the spring of 2018 when Gov. Christie is out of office.
President of the Council of New Jersey State College Locals, Tim Haresign, spoke to the faculty and staff at this event. He highlighted how important it is that awareness is brought not only from the government, but from the students.
“It’s simple,” Haresign said. “We want our salaries to be fair.”
Everyone in attendance shared the same outrage in how unfair their pay had gotten. With the lack of negotiation brings even more frustration, as they don’t see an end in sight.
“We’re not going to stop trying, we’re going to negotiate in good faith,” Haresign said.
After Haresign spoke, Basso did as well, both with a similar message. As Basso is a professor at Rowan, he did have a different message to relay than Haresign did. He has been at Rowan for 12 years, and was very passionate in his demeanor as he spoke to the small crowd.
“Each and every one of us show up because we care about the students,” Basso said, “[They] don’t understand how bad it’s gotten. It’s time they step up and support us.”
After the short speeches were made, Woodworth gathered the professors to walk around main campus. They went around Savitz Hall to walk down Route 322, and back down the path next to the Campbell Library. About a dozen or more professors and even a few students walked with them, all wearing matching shirts that said: “I make a difference everyday.”
While the professors walked, they chanted, “We work, we act, we want a contract.”
“Teachers deserve better treatment and respect,” said writing arts major, Anthony Copsey.
As far as professors go, the turnout was great. As they came in waves not to miss out on teaching their classes, some students were even in attendance to show support to their favorite professors.
“They go above and beyond what they need to do,” said music education major, Stephen Fleming.
The main purpose was to create awareness of the mistreatment the teachers not only at Rowan, but across New Jersey, have been receiving. The salaries of these dedicated teachers haven’t been raising with inflation, and has been a flat rate since the 1970’s, according to Larry DePasquale, advisor and Coordinator of Field Experiences/Music Education.
“My check has been decreasing,” DePasquale said.
It’s no secret that the faculty and staff of Rowan are frustrated. Their benefits have been cut, as well as their pay. As well as having very unfair treatment, the administration is actually making more, according to Basso. Although teaching is what the faculty and staff are passionate about, they still have families to take care of.
“We’d like to be recognized,” said Adeline Tomasone, Assistant Professor in Rowan’s Music Department, “We want things the way they’re supposed to go.”
“Working without a contract for a year doesn’t hurt [just] me, it hurts everyone,” said Ronald Czochor a professor in the mathematics department.
The faculty and staff that was still around after the walk through campus also sang two powerful songs that drew attention to the goal they were trying to accomplish.
“The union makes us strong,” the faculty and staff sang, during the song titled, “Solidarity Forever.”
Higher education plays such a big role in society, and the faculty and staff at Rowan want that fact to be known.
“This is not a protest, it’s an awakening,” Basso said.
Additional Reporting by Rhiannon Bulaga