NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The union that represents professors and faculty members at Rutgers University has sued the school, saying that Rutgers has not been transparent regarding how much cash it funnels into the school's athletics program, calling Rutgers Athletics a "financial black hole."
The Rutgers' athletics program "continually loses money," according to the union, called Rutgers AAUP-AFT. The union represents 5,000 full-time faculty and graduate students, who also teach classes.
The lawsuit was filed in July in Middlesex County Superior Court and it seeks to "force the Rutgers University administration to come clean about the huge sums of money it funnels to an athletics program that continually loses money," according to a statement from the union posted online.
The faculty union has filed multiple OPRA requests from Rutgers, seeking in-depth financial data about how much the state university spends on sports.
The information Rutgers has returned is "scant," according to union leaders. What they did learn was that mandatory undergrad fees help pay for an annual subsidy to Rutgers Athletics, which ranged between $20 million and $40 million for close to a decade.
“The amounts are just staggering,” said Andrew Goldstone, an associate English professor and union member. “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."
According to Goldstone, Rutgers has denied nearly all of the union's OPRA requests.
“Rutgers is a public university,” Goldstone 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."
In response to the COVID epidemic — and a steep drop in on-campus housing and meal plan fees — 300 part-time lecturers at Rutgers were laid off in April, 600 dining service employees were laid off in June and 450 more Rutgers employees were furloughed, MyCentralJersey reported.
The Rutgers athletic program has run a deficit for decades, but "the red ink really started flowing during the administration of recently departed President Robert Barchi, said union president Todd Wolfson.
“Some people still believe that this program will turn a profit the way most other Big Ten athletic programs do,” Goldstone said. “A school like Michigan brings in much more in ticket sales and TV revenue and gifts than its athletics program costs to run. But the experience at Rutgers is the opposite: the goal is so far away that it never gets met. The ‘someday’ when they’ve promised Rutgers Athletics will break even might as well be ‘never.’”
Click here to get Patch email notifications on this or other local news articles or get Patch breaking news alerts sent right to your phone with our app. Download here. Follow New Brunswick Patch on Facebook. Have a news tip? Email email@example.com