Rutgers professors say they were shortchanged in salary equity adjustments, especially those who work in Camden
Rutgers’ faculty union, which has been pushing for changes since New Jersey’s pay equity law went into effect in 2018, said the salary adjustments shortchanged professors by at least $750,000.
Lisa Zeidner, an English professor at Rutgers-Camden for 42 years, said she has earned close to 30% less than her male counterparts from the time she was hired, a gap that now amounts to about $30,000.
This week, though, Zeidner was one of more than 100 professors who received salary adjustments made in response to claims of inequity based on gender and race, as well as differences across Rutgers’ three campuses in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden.
But the university gave her only $12,000, she said.
“It’s really not equity,” said Zeidner, one of five professors who filed a lawsuit over unequal pay against Rutgers about a year ago.
Rutgers’ faculty union, which has been pushing for changes since New Jersey’s pay equity law went into effect in 2018, said the salary adjustments shortchanged professors by at least $750,000, possibly as much as $1 million. And professors on the Camden campus, who say they have long been treated unfairly in regard to salaries and resources compared with their counterparts in Newark and New Brunswick, once again took the brunt.
Although other colleges have faced legal action or complaints of pay inequity, Rutgers is believed to be among the first to address the issue through such a process, one that began to be developed as part of the union contract settled in 2019.
Professors on the New Brunswick campus who filed requests received an equity adjustment of about 13%, while those at Rutgers-Camden got 7%, said Jim Brown, associate professor of English and president of the Rutgers-Camden chapter of AAUP-AFT.
Rutgers-Camden accounted for about half of the 105 professors who asked for adjustments in the first round. And about one in five of those Rutgers-Camden professors got nothing, he said.
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“Rutgers-Camden is systemically underpaid as compared to the other two campuses,” Brown said. He said he was “inundated with text messages and emails expressing anger” after the letters from Rutgers went out Tuesday night.
Rutgers in a statement said that it distributed $1.2 million in salary adjustments based on a negotiated process and that the adjustments were “reflective of a detailed analysis of relevant work-related factors for each person who requested a review to determine if they are being paid on an equitable basis.”
The university declined further comment.
Under the process, professors were allowed to pick faculty peers, called “comparators,” who earn more than them and make an argument why they should earn the same. Information was readily available because Rutgers’ status as a state institution means salaries are public. When faculty submitted their letters, in many cases deans signed off on them, union officials and professors say, but the comparators were later changed by the university. In some cases, the university compared tenured professors to untenured, or female professors to other female professors, or made other unfair comparisons, they said.
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The university also used a “regression analysis,” which took into account rank, title, discipline, and other factors. Some professors said they were baffled over what those other factors were.
“It’s totally opaque,” said Maureen Donaghy, associate professor and political science department chair at Rutgers-Camden.
She said she compared herself with two associate professors of political science at Newark, a man and a woman, who earned $111,000 and $115,000. She earned $90,000 when she made her application. (She has since received a merit raise.) Both had worked at Rutgers for fewer years than she did, she said.
She also noted that an assistant professor, someone who had a lower rank, made $10,000 more than she did.
But the university offered her only $2,000, she said.
“It just makes me feel undervalued and questioning Rutgers and its transparency and trustworthiness,” she said.
Haydee Herrera-Guzman, associate professor of mathematics at Rutgers-Camden, said the comparators she provided from the Newark and New Brunswick campuses earn between $24,000 and $42,000 more. She chose four men and one woman and made her claim based on gender and campus inequities, she said. The university offered her $8,000.
“It hurts,” said Herrera-Guzman, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, who has worked at Rutgers since 2002.
Brown, the union president, said median salaries for arts and sciences faculty are considerably lower at Rutgers-Camden. Associate professors earn $96,093, compared with nearly $124,000 at New Brunswick. At the highest level, that of distinguished professor, the median comparison is $215,292 to $173,700, Brown said.
“At each level, disparities are stark,” Brown said.
Professors in New Brunswick also were disappointed.
Deepa Kumar, a professor of media studies who is also a plaintiff, said her comparator joined Rutgers the same year she did, earning only $3,000 more.
“What’s happened since then is what happens to women of color at this university,” she said.
He was put up for promotion before her, even though they have the same record and accomplishments, she said, and he received a $22,000 raise after getting a job offer.
When she received tenure shortly after he did, she asked for a raise and was told to get a job offer, she said.
Now, he makes $50,000 more than she does, she said. She earns about $140,000.
The university in its adjustment offered $10,000, she said.
“In the 21st century, for women and women of color to still earn less than their white male counterparts is truly stunning and sends the wrong message to our daughters and younger sisters and all the young people today,” she said.
Zeidner, the longtime English professor, said the process hasn’t been easy.
“It is very hard to talk about salaries publicly, but I think it’s necessary to see how some people are undervalued and how inequities persist,” she said.
“I earn $149,000 — which may seem generous, until you realize that I have been here for 42 years, have published eight books and served in many administrative roles, and that people in New Brunswick and Newark, in the identical discipline with fewer publications, are earning $25,000 to $38,000 more.”