A major union at Rutgers University has filed a lawsuit seeking information on the university’s financing of its athletics program. The AAUP-AFT (American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers) asked a superior court judge Friday to force the university to reveal detailed financial data. Such data, requested under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), could explain what union leaders call an ‘alarming’ drain on the core missions of the state university,” a union press release contended.
According to the press release, “scant information” provided by the university shows an ongoing annual subsidy to Rutgers Athletics of $20 million to $40 million for close to ten years, with an additional $76 million increase in the past year for “what the university mysteriously categorizes as the athletic program’s ‘internal debt.’”
Andrew Goldstone of the AAUP-AFT, said, “The amounts are just staggering … We’ve known for years about the subsidy to athletics that comes out of student fees and general appropriations from the university. That makes less and less sense in the era of COVID, when the athletics program will have an even harder time getting to the break-even point.”
“But,” he added, “then there’s this loan book, which they call ‘internal debt,’ that ballooned from $45.4 million to $121.5 million in a single year. And the university refuses to release any information about it: where the money came from, whether there’s an interest rate, when it will be repaid, if it will ever be repaid, and, above all, what on earth they’re spending $76 million on.”
According to Goldstone, the university has denied requests for information on bogus grounds. “Rutgers is a public university,” he said. “It shouldn’t be fighting OPRA requests to keep information secret. This suit is about a basic principle of openness in public university governance.”
The union’s press release stated that since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring and the resultant economic crisis, “Rutgers has laid off a fifth of its adjunct faculty for the fall semester, along with hundreds more staff; threatened other unions with worse if they don’t accept furloughs that amount to a wage cut; and declared a fiscal emergency” as the justification for canceling or freezing salary increases won in recent union contracts.
It noted that last year, Rutgers signed new head football coach Greg Schiano to an eight-year, $4 million-a-year contract — $1 million per year more than he was paid to coach in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The university also promised to pay for half of a Schiano’s $150 million plan for a new indoor practice facility and football command center.