Rowan administration considering lay offs of 3/4 time faculty

"2021 to 2023, Rowan University’s tuition has increased by 4%." - Previous Photo Editor/Amanda Palma

Rowan administrators are considering laying off one third of 3/4 time faculty in order to avoid paying the faculty’s “STEP increases,” or their pay increase, citing unsustainable funding as reason for the proposed lay offs.

Three-quarter time faculty, who receive an annual salary from Rowan, teach three classes, but receive no benefits, have contracts on a yearly basis and must reapply for their position each June. Most are generally rehired from year to year.

The university proposes laying off one-third of the faculty for the next three years in phases. Of the 211 3/4 quarter time faculty affected at Rowan, this would mean roughly 70 of the faculty would not return during the next academic school year, then the next 70 following year, and the 70 the year after that, according to the university.

The university is aiming to not allow 3/4 time faculty more than three years of consecutive service before they must take one year off, thus avoiding paying a contract-mandated salary increase. Three-quarter time faculty will be allowed to reapply for their jobs, but only after a one year break.

At a University Senate meeting Friday, hundreds gathered in Bozorth Hall to express their concerns about the proposed lay-offs, which many deemed unfair and called “unrealistic budgeting” on the university’s part. President Houshmand and other high-up faculty were not present.

University Senates are deliberative bodies for the discussion of university policies and proposed changes in practices and structure.

“Just to be clear: nothing has been decided yet about 3/4 faculty, and I’m optimistic that we can reach an agreement that ensures they receive the compensation they deserve,” said Bill Freind, president of University Senate & an associate professor of English.

Rowan University Provost Jim Newell and other faculty are now not allowed to speak publicly about the contract dispute, as it is now undergoing further action with lawyers who are negotiating with American Federation of Teachers (AFT) 2373, the higher education union that represents faculty at Rowan University.

Freind also pointed out that 3/4 time faculty are an integral part of many university departments, noting that the writing arts department consists of 28 3/4 time faculty and the mathematics department consists of 20. Losing one-third of this faculty just isn’t sustainable, he said, and it would be nearly impossible to find sufficient adjuncts to teach the missing courses.

President of AFT 2373 and professor in the university’s public relations department Joe Basso said the proposal was not “valuing 3/4 time faculty’s experience,” and said the 3/4 time position is “one of the most undervalued” at Rowan University.

“We intend to stand behind this faculty 100 percent and I want to make it clear we vehemently disagree with this proposed solution,” Basso said to the senate. “If this is done, it’s an example of the university not investing in the product of students’ education.”

Faculty’s concerns echoed that of Basso and Freind regarding sustainability and the value of 3/4 time faculty.

Chris Simons, a professor in the math department who also serves on Rowan University’s budget and planning committee, noted Rowan University also recently saw its strongest fiscal year in 17 years.

The university made a net profit of about $20 million last year, he said. While roughly $2 million went to fixing the university’s lead issue and $14 million was delegated to other projects, he said he is personally unsure why the concern exists about a lack of funding for the 3/4 time faculty.

“We’re not broke,” he said.

Freind and Basso remain confident the university’s proposal was not a serious one.

“Right now it’s a matter of waiting to find out what the proposed alternate solutions might be,” Freind said.

There is no firm deadline when a solution will be announced.

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