NJCU and AFT Local 1839 Commit to Historic Memorandum of Understanding

April 11, 2023
Hepburn 22-Tower-3104 in Spring

MOU Will Strengthen Shared Governance, Good Faith Labor Relations, and Collective Responsibility for Student Success

JERSEY CITY, N.J. | New Jersey City University (NJCU) and AFT Local 1839 — the institution’s local affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, representing faculty, professional staff, librarians, adjunct faculty —  have announced a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 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. AFT Local 1839’s engagement is instrumental as NJCU continues navigating through 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.

Related: Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (pdf copy)

The agreement was reached by NJCU Interim President Andrés Acebo, working collaboratively with Dr. Barbara Hildner, NJCU English Professor since 1972 and President of the AFT Local 1839, and Dr. William Calathes, Chief Negotiator of AFT Local 1839 and Professor of Criminal Justice at NJCU since September 1987.

The agreement is in alignment with a pledge that President Acebo made to the university community in his introductory message to the campus community on his first day in office on January 17, 2023. In that message, Acebo said “we will enshrine and engage the principles of shared governance because its absence only leaves our mission vulnerable. We will embrace the strength of our work force — an overwhelmingly proud union shop — that makes us stronger as an institution.” The MOU announced today delivers on that initial pledge.

“We will proactively solicit input and collaboration from all campus stakeholders, including the University Senate, because we value both the principle and practice of shared governance, and recognize that it is critical in order to drive student success,” said Acebo in announcing today’s agreement. “On my first day in office, I said in my opening message to our community that I would honor shared governance, and we are. Today, we are recommitting to always meeting our students and community where they are.”

This historic and unprecedented MOU will effectuate data-informed, mission-focused leadership in all endeavors that are broadly championed on and off this campus.  We have new rules of engagement on our campus that strengthens 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 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. Stabilizing admissions and retention;
  6. Establish student retention as the highest priority in student success initiatives;
  7. Increase graduation rate;
  8. Decrease students' financial challenges; and
  9. Increase student support services 

“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,” said Acebo. “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.”

“Together,” Acebo continued, “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. I would like to thank AFT Local 1839 President Barbara Hildner, Chief Negotiator Dr. William Calathes, and the entire AFT Local 1839 membership for their engagement and collaboration. Without the joint solidarity, we could not have reduced a more than $22 million deficit by more than 50 percent 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.”

AFT President Barbara 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. I look forward to our partnership.” 

Dr. Calathes, recognizing the importance of working collaboratively, noted: “I thank President Acebo for his stellar stewardship. 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."

About NJCU:
New Jersey City University is an institution of higher learning dedicated to the development of our students, our city, our communities, and our state. We are a game-changing force for our students and have been recognized as one of the top colleges in the nation improving their upward economic mobility. Whether enrolled in one of our undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral programs at our three locations, NJCU students have access to an affordable, diverse environment, and an exceptionally supportive faculty. This prepares them to go on to become the next generation of workers and leaders who improve their communities and the State of New Jersey.


Ira Thor
, Senior Director of University Communications and Media Relations | ithor@njcu.edu | 201-200-3301