Labor peace … at New Jersey City University

School, AFT Local 1839 announce MOU of shared vision, good faith labor relations and collective responsibility for student success

New Jersey City University and the American Federation of Teachers Local 1839 on Tuesday announced a Memorandum of Understanding that sets the vision for shared governance and good faith labor relations at the university, underscoring a commitment to collective responsibility for student success.

The MOU recognizes AFT Local 1839’s role as an invaluable stakeholder and partner in supporting the mission and success of NJCU, and contributing to the university’s recovery, renewal and strategic plan development.

The MOU also indicates AFT Local 1839’s engagement is instrumental as NJCU continues navigating the recovery phase of the financial crisis that engulfed the campus in June 2022. The agreement recognizes a commitment to collective accountability for student success that will benefit all NJCU stakeholders.

AFT Local 1839 represents NJCU’s faculty, professional staff, librarians and adjunct faculty.

The agreement was reached by NJCU interim President Andrés Acebo, AFT Local 1839 President Barbara Hildner (an NJCU English professor since 1972) and AFT Local 1839 chief negotiator William Calathes (an NJCU professor of criminal justice since September 1987).

The MOU memorializes nine significant goals tied to corresponding objectives aimed at cementing a mission-centered future for the university. These include:

  1. Invigorate the university’s oversight and accountability;
  2. Streamline administrative procedures and structures;
  3. Enhance shared governance and labor/management engagement;
  4. Emphasize teaching and learning as the central mission of NJCU;
  5. Stabilize admissions and retention;
  6. Establish student retention as the highest priority in student success initiatives;
  7. Increase graduation rate;
  8. Decrease students’ financial challenges;
  9. Increase student support services.

Acebo, who has talked of shared governance since he took office Jan. 17, said this MOU is a recognition of that desire.

“This historic and unprecedented MOU will effectuate data-informed, mission-focused leadership in all endeavors that are broadly championed on and off this campus,” he said. “We have new rules of engagement on our campus that strengthen our efforts to move our mission forward.

“The MOU ensures critical buy-in for our university’s framework for long-term sustainability, mission focus and student success. Together with the University Senate and AFT colleagues, and guided by the framework, we are building a University Strategic Plan to drive mission-focused work that delivers economic mobility for thousands of our students and members of our community.

“I look forward to working with our union leaders and our University Senate to champion faculty and professional staff initiatives and reforms that solidify an unrelenting commitment to our community of students and their success.”

The agreement comes at a time when union issues at universities are in the news — as unions representing faculty at all three campuses of Rutgers University are on strike.

Acebo has talked of having a proud union workforce since his first day of office, Jan. 17, and said the MOU aligns with that vision today and in the future.

Acebo said he has worked hard to ensure workplace harmony.

“On our campus, there’s unprecedented engagement and partnership with union leaders rooted in a shared commitment to institutional reform that elevates both student and academic success and rewards a culture of servant leadership,” he said. “NJCU is on the road, with critically needed and important state support, to emerge into a new era of unrelenting commitment to the population it serves.”

Hildner said members of New Jersey City University’s administration and AFT Local 1839 have worked together to create a shared vision for student success — and have also committed themselves to do the work necessary to implement this vision.

“I believe our collaborative effort is the best way to provide students with a rich academic and personal experience and to lay a foundation on which graduates can build a rewarding future,” she said.

Calathes recognized the importance of working collaboratively.

“I thank President Acebo for his stellar stewardship,” he said. “We have agreed to key institutional goals, objectives and methods in the critical future performance areas of marketing and enrollment, retention, years-to-graduate and job placement.

“I believe that the agreement provides foundational justification for the state to fully fund and support NJCU’s recovery and moving the mission of this Hispanic- and minority-serving institution of higher education successfully into the future.”

Acebo said it is another step in the school’s recovery.

“Together, we have affirmed our unbreakable ties to the community and populations we have the privilege to serve, and that cannot happen without the unprecedented support from our faculty and professional staff,” he said.

“Without the joint solidarity, we could not have reduced a more than $22 million deficit by more than 50% within 120 days, we could not have made significant progress in stabilizing NJCU over the past 10 months and we will not be able to move forward to evolve into the mission-focused institution that we know we will emerge as in the months and years ahead.

“It is because of this extraordinary spirit of collaboration that I can say that I am profoundly proud to work with such wonderful faculty and staff that put our students first and recognize our shared responsibility for their success. I am honored to share time and space with them in this incredibly important work.”