Students can be more proactive in strategic planning
If there is anything Rutgers University grips onto for campus pride, it’s most likely their dynamic diversity. Only at Rutgers can I walk down most streets and hear at least three different languages combined with six different accents on my way to class. Yet, university officials feel it’s best to improve its reputation by focusing on absurdities like a failing football program and its merger to the Big 10.
With the arrival of new leadership, from the president to the chief financial officer, to the new merger of a medical school that boasts a new era to dawn at the banks, Rutgers is about to undergo a serious transformation. There is a blueprint for the changes occurring on campus. Unfortunately with the minuscule efforts of Robert Barchi and other top-level administrators, the proclaimed strategic plan is about as vague as a working thesis on a rough draft written in Expos 101.
So the question is: what does the average student know about the strategic plan? Many know little to nothing about the strategic plan. Even student leaders who have attended Barchi’s town hall meetings to provide input are censored and given instruction as to what input they can give. There is knowledge of a physical master plan that maps out the construction projects Rutgers plans to begin during the upcoming years. This brings me to why I am writing this piece.
After having read how the Asian Student Council was seeking more space for its center, I was most disturbed to realize that Valeria Chew is on point when she states, “It’s been busy, and I guess they felt that the AACC was not a main priority.” Surely, Rutgers has been busy, so busy that the administration has lost touch with its consequence. Just look at the fiasco that the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Governing Council endured with regards to Skelly Field. This example of administrators trampling on the student voice is becoming the normal narrative at Rutgers.
Here’s a start: Instead of building a new College Avenue or the School of Arts and Sciences honors residence halls that only a limited number of students will be able to afford — which School of Arts and Sciences deans have expressed not supporting the construction of — why not renovate Brower Commons? Or why not build a new dining hall altogether and transform Brower Commons into lecture halls just as Tillet Hall was? Or why not provide the Center for Latino Arts and Culture with renovations or a new space altogether?
It’s evident that administrators truly believe they know what’s best. Yet, I challenge every student leader. Who is to say we cannot come up with our own list of demands or even provide a strategic plan of our own? From the school’s governing bodies, such as the Rutgers Business Governing Association and the Engineering Governing Council, to the cultural councils, such as the Latin Student Council and Asian Student Council, it’s time to come together and stand our ground as the elected representatives of our communities that we care so much about.
There is one component to the strategic plan that hasn’t been given much, if any, light: the idea of student autonomy through shared governance. Why not begin the initiatives now rather than wait for the administration to once again make the rules students play by for student life involvement? Or is the administration waiting for the changes to occur and only then will they provide students with a voice? At other universities, student-governing bodies decide dining hall hours, manage student centers and have votes on tuition, fees and other expenses. This can only happen if the governing and representative bodies of Rutgers students truly come together in solidarity and defend the one true derivative of Rutgers pride and student empowerment — diversity! It’s time students get engaged to become autonomous, strategic and share a stake hold in the future of our educational experiences, especially if we pay as much as we do to attend.
Bryan D. Miranda is a School of Arts and Sciences junior and Educational Opportunity Project chair for New Jersey United Students.