Amid Contract Negotiations, Professors Tell Trustees Faculty is Underpaid, Devalued

Twenty-one professors and three students spoke at Raritan Valley Community College’s Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday, Nov. 18 about negotiating a new contract for faculty.

Maria DeFilippis, coordinator of Paralegal Studies at RVCC and president of the RVCC Faculty Federation—the  union that represents over 200 full-time and adjunct faculty members at the school—opened the discussion.

DeFilippis said that based on RVCC’s budget reports and the administration’s financial decisions this past year, the school has funds available to increase faculty salaries.

"As you know, the faculty has been working without a contract since June 30,” DeFilippis said. “And based on recent economic indicators, the issue does not seem to be a financial one.”

DeFilippis said that both Resolution 106 last year and Resolution 112A this year (both of which the Board of Trustees passed) stated “college finances worked better than expected” and “allowed $700,000 to be set aside for other initiatives.”

She also said RVCC’s unrestricted net fund balance last year rose $1 million. This was 6.2% of the school’s revenue, almost doubling from the 3.7% the previous year.

DeFilippis then spoke about three financial decisions the administration made that benefited themselves but not the faculty.

The first was the bonuses given to senior administrators near the departure of President Casey Crabill two years ago.

The second was the creation last year of the Vice President for Strategic Programs & Development position, which gives the college five vice presidents.

The third was the creation this past August of another position: Construction Project Manager. DeFilippis said this position’s six figure income and benefits is worth more than a 1% raise for 124 full time faculty.

DeFilippis mentioned the passing of Resolution 139 to close the discussion at the end of the meeting.

“That is a resolution in which you approved, stating that several administrators would get a salary raise as a result of the Administrative Compensation Study, which you ordered and paid for. About three years ago you did a similar compensation study for administrators. Administrator salaries were increased to place them at the market rate in our area. So, I thought you might be interested in compensation comparison of faculty salaries.”

As previously reported by The Record, Somerset and Hunterdon Counties are ranked as the fourth and eighth wealthiest counties, respectively, in the United States by median household income. This is according to the 2012 American Community Survey prepared by the US Census Bureau.

However, of the 19 county colleges in New Jersey, the average salary of a professor at RVCC is ranked only at number nine in the state, below counties with lower costs of living.

“To give us a comparable pay, not to the highest county college, but just to those that surround us, each of us would have to receive a $9,500 pay raise.”

DeFilippis introduced the other professors by saying, “So, it doesn’t appear to us the issue here is a financial one. Perhaps you just need to get to know us better to appreciate us.”

The professors—some who had their children with them—spoke about why a fair contract is import to them. They also spoke about their accomplishments at RVCC, such as advising successful student clubs and organizations, receiving academic awards, presenting research at other campuses, writing books and having papers published in top journals.

Several professors attributed these accomplishments to the work the administration allowed for them.

Professors also mentioned the challenges they face teaching. Many of them have over 100 students enrolled in their classes this semester and have little free time outside of work.

Deborah Corbett, professor of psychology and coordinator of the Edna Mahan Prison program, spoke at the meeting.

Corbett, who has taught at RVCC for 38 years, said of the relationship with the administration, “I guess it’s like we’re having an argument. Arguments tend to be about power and control. I get that. You are the board and you are in control.

“How is the control manifested? Your council calls and asks for a meeting. We don’t initiate meetings so we wait. One time we heard a meeting was set for two hours, the council came for 20 minutes and walked out. Those are power plays. They are effective. They make us feel devalued, condescended to, our values trivialized and not worth your time and effort. If that was your goal, you have succeeded.”

Kevin Reilly, professor of history at RVCC since 1969, also spoke at the meeting. Since teaching at RVCC, Reilly has been the co-founder and first president of the World History Association and has sat on the board of the American Historical Association. He is the author and editor of several books and book series, including “Worlds of History: A Comparative Reader; Volumes One and Two” and “Readings In World Civilization,” which he uses in his classes. He has also taught courses at Columbia and was a visiting professor at Rutgers and Princeton.

“It has been a long and happy voyage for me. I came here because it was the only place I could teach world history. I wanted to learn how to teach world history... I learned how to teach World Civilization by writing the books.

“I love teaching here. My students are more curious here than Princeton or Columbia. There is also more a student can do here than those who know everything, or think they do. I want to continue teaching here. But I want to be able to continue doing the work I’m paid to do so far, with your help.”

He then talked about creating the “Modern Global Migrations” globe at Ellis Island’s Museum of the History of Immigration.

“That was something I was able to do because of the work you (the Board of Trustees) allowed me to do here.”

Part-time student Melissa Brown, who first enrolled at RVCC last semester because she had to take an economics class, said she has continued coming because of her professors. Brown earned her undergraduate degree from Yale University and her Master’s degree from Cornell University.

“In order to attract students, you also have to have outstanding professionals,” Brown said. “You have outstanding professionals here, and it is your duty to pay them an honest wage.”

The Board of Trustees closed the meeting without commenting on the discussion.

Read more about the faculty contract negotiations in The Record's article "RVCC Faculty Continue Negotiating Contract."

Christian Rosario
Editor-In-Chief (2013-2015) / The Record
Christian Rosario is the 2013-2015 Editor-In-Chief, website administrator and founder of RVCCTheRecord.com. He majors in Communication Studies at Raritan Valley Community College. He welcomes students of all majors to contribute their talent to The Record.

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