By Daris Mendez | Posted September 29th, 2015
The Kean Federation of Teachers is running a letter-writing campaign asking New Jersey legislators to investigate Kean University, especially the “hiring practices and finances of the University’s China branch campus,” according to the letters written to legislators.
James Castiglione, president of the Kean Federation of Teachers (KFT), who represents Kean’s full-time faculty and professional staff, said the union wants a forensic audit of the finances of the university and its financial arrangement with the Chinese Wenzhou campus.
The KFT started the letter-writing campaign in late July early August. Castiglione said that a few hundred letters have been sent to New Jersey legislators so far. The union has 550 members.
According to the letter, Kean is hiring more than 40 faculty positions in China at the same time Kean is laying off academic and student support staff here at Kean’s main campus. The faculty positions in China were hired according to U.S. and New Jersey employment laws said Kean.
This threatens to undermine students’ retention according to the letter.
“It is doubly harmful to our students that the University plans to cut vital student services while it increases tuition and fees three percent, among the highest such increases in the state,” the request stated. “No other public colleges or universities are engaging in layoffs, even though all received similar reductions in state aid.”
The letter also references recent news reports that says Wenzhou-Kean is advertising for positions in student life that state that Chinese Communist Party membership is preferred.
“One of the big concerns is our NJ taxpayer funds being used to pay for the education of Chinese nationals in China, for the Chinese national government,” said Castiglione in an interview.
The letter concludes by asking for investigations into all of these matters for the “protection of students, faculty and staff both in New Jersey and China.”
“It is unconscionable that the University is engaging in discriminatory hiring practices at its China campus, while threatening layoffs of critical academic and student support staff here at its main campus in Union, New Jersey,” the
letter stated. “The citizens of New Jersey deserve far better.”
In a statement about the KFT letter-writing campaign, Kean’s spokeswoman Margaret McCorry said they are aware of the KFT letter-writing campaign and “would welcome a dialogue with state legislators, who are focused as they are, on providing New Jersey students with access to a high quality college education.”
Castiglione said that the university is far from running a deficit because of cuts in state aid but on the contrary, it will run “a multimillion dollar surplus” with the three percent increase in tuition and fees, an increase that McCorry is also concerned about.
“Kean University continues to be among the most affordable comprehensive universities in the state,” McCorry said.
The statement said that the three percent tuition increase approved by the Kean Board of Trustees on June 29 will help maintain the quality academic programming and student services in light of a 2.4 million cut in state funding this year and rising operational cost.
McCorry said the Board of Trustees also authorized a reorganization plan to better serve students and will change model for three key areas including the Library, The Center for Academic Success, and The Educational Opportunities Center to encourage student support and improve retention and graduation rates according to the statement.
“Wherever possible, the University will make every effort to provide retraining, professional development and other opportunities as they become available for all interested employees who are affected by the reorganization,” McCorry said.