Rutgers Professor Faces Ethics Complaint

By Briana Vannozzi

The ethics complaint stems from research reports written by Rutgers professor Dr. Julia Sass Rubin.

“She has repeatedly and knowingly used her associate professor position at Rutgers University to add credibility to the argument which she’s making on behalf of this organization she founded,” said New Jersey Charter Schools Association Spokesperson Michael Turner.

Representatives for New Jersey’s Charter Schools Association argue that the use of her title lends extra weight to Rubin’s privately published work on charters in the state. And say she’s launching a personal attack due to her affiliation with a volunteer group (Save Our Schools NJ) that supports public schools.

“These are research reports and including a biography of myself at the end of those reports is an explanation of why I have legitimacy as a scholar in this area, why I would be taken seriously. I can’t imagine how a faculty member would ever not do that,” said Rubin.

“She can certainly reference the fact that her professional affiliation is with Rutgers University but the way she has portrayed it is that it was sanctioned by Rutgers University and it is the official position of Rutgers University by virtue of how she uses her title,” Turner said.

The complaint says Rubin violated various state and university ethics codes and laws, because she didn’t identify herself beyond the Rutgers affiliation in various public appearances and writings.

“This is a pretty blatant attempt to silence the voices of those who disagree with a very powerful and well funded organization and I think that if we allow this to succeed, that it is a huge blow to what I think is the most fundamental aspect of what it means to be an American,” Rubin said.

Rubin also claims the complaint misquotes Rutgers’ policy, deleting the phrase “made on behalf of Rutgers” to change the meaning of lobbying communication. And it omits the list of what is not considered a lobbying communication by the school — her activities, she says, fall under that category.

“So I am very much in compliance with the Rutgers lobbying and advocacy policy I don’t really know on what grounds the ethics commission would take this on,” she said.

“So I received an anonymous FOIA request for all of my emails between myself and 28 members of the Montclair community,” said CUNY Professor Michelle Fine.

Fine was told to hand over communications through her university email account for advocacy work with folks in her hometown of Montclair on behalf of public schools.

“So these are people who have raised significant questions about the district’s policies,” she said.

Neither Rutgers, nor CUNY, nor the State Ethics Commission would comment on the cases. The complaint asks that Rubin refrain from using her Rutgers title in any activity on behalf of or coordinated with Save Our Schools NJ and that she leave it out during public appearances and testimonies. It also requests that she either adhere to Rutgers’ policies regarding outside activities or withdraw her involvement.

“When I put out a paper I am staking my reputation on that research. That’s what gives it legitimacy and it is a rightful legitimacy. If that report was methodologically unsound, it’s my reputation that’s on the line,” said Rubin.

The complaint now sits in the hands of the state ethics board which will have to decide if they’ll give merit to the argument and hear the case. Dr. Rubin and fellow academics say this is a fundamental case of freedom of speech — a topic that’s been in the forefront lately. They believe it could go all the way to the Supreme Court, if action is taken.