AFT Local #2375 – Representing Full-Time and Adjunct Faculty at Raritan Valley Community College, Somerville NJ
Raritan Valley Community College has projected a budget shortfall of $1.5 million dollars. State appropriations and other revenue sources may be higher than projected when actual revenue numbers are known in September, or even as early as Monday when the legislature votes to restore county college funding. Faculty members stand ready to make sacrifices to assist the College in closing its current budget gap while avoiding layoffs. Over the course of the last month the union has proposed a number of ways to achieve significant savings and protect jobs through furloughs. Each time, the College finds another reason to reject our proposals and continues to hold the threat of layoffs over our heads.
On June 25th, the College delivered an ultimatum to union employees insisting that faculty agree to furloughs with no assurances that jobs will be protected. Apparently the College is prepared to declare a financial exigency to justify the unnecessary layoffs of faculty and other College employees.
Professors live for teachable moments, and this is a perfect one. A declaration of financial exigency means the financial situation of an institution is so dire that it “threatens the survival of the institution as a whole.” That is simply not the case here, at least not at this point in time. Just as you can’t yell “fire” in a movie theatre if there isn’t one, you shouldn’t declare financial exigency if a financial situation doesn’t rise to that level. Why create panic where it doesn’t need to be?
There is no doubt the Coronavirus pandemic has created many financial challenges for the College. The College approached the unions to address the financial issue collaboratively. The reality instead was that the College presented their plan and expected us to agree to it. Another teachable moment: Collaboration means working with someone to create something. If you hear that the union is not cooperating with the College, that is simply not true. The College only met with us once and rejected all requests to meet again.
The College’s actions tell us that the goal is not to balance the budget, but rather to take advantage of a national crisis to build a surplus on the backs of its employees. We stand ready to make financial sacrifices for the college; is College leadership prepared to do the same? Their silence has been deafening, as if they are waiting to see how much they can get from their union employees first.
RVCC Faculty Federation, AFT Local #2375