Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, despite having plenty of money, has used the pandemic as an excuse to make huge cuts and layoffs to staff.
Rutgers has an endowment totaling $1.467 billion dollars and about $650 million in annual research grants. In addition, Rutgers recently granted approval to the private company RUCDR Infinite Biologics to purchase one of the university’s laboratories for $44.4 million after its success in developing a COVID-19 home test. And Rutgers’s enrollment only declined by about 2% for the 2020-21 school year.
But in addition to having plenty of money, Rutgers has been paying the employment law firm Jackson Lewis about $1.8 million a year to help them decrease the workforce and overall spending on staffing. Rutgers has used the pandemic to fire hundreds of adjunct faculty, and laid off more than 3,500 staff. The workers who’ve kept their jobs have had to do the work of two or even three people, and unpaid furlough days have continued throughout the pandemic. Wages are now frozen for most workers that remain, who struggle to get by making $33,000 to $50,000 a year in a state where the living wage estimate for a family of four is $82,809.
To add insult to injury, Rutgers has done next to nothing to provide safe working conditions for those that have been forced to work on campus during the pandemic. Even though the University has remained closed to almost all students, hundreds of workers have still had to come to campus, those working in health services, the library, maintenance, landscaping, administrative staff, and more. Many of them have contracted COVID-19 while on the job. The worst hit has been the library staff, the majority of whom are Black, and some of whom have contracted the virus more than once. One Rutgers library employee, who contracted the virus at work, infected her husband at home, and he soon died from COVID-19 complications.
Rutgers flaunts its reputation as an elite institution that prioritizes diversity and inclusion, and is responsible to the community it serves. In reality, like most universities across the country, Rutgers is run more like a corporation. It increases its revenue by firing workers, cutting wages, continuously raising tuition, and selling off parts of the university to private corporations. It seems like the only responsibility it shows to the community is being responsible for making people’s lives more difficult.