Rutgers silence on faculty protests repressive, hypocritical
After the Board of Governors unilaterally decided to extend an invitation to Condoleezza Rice for this year’s commencement address, Rutgers University faculty responded. First, Rutgers New Brunswick’s Faculty Council, which is “the principal faculty body from which the administration will seek advice and to which the administration will be accountable on campus wide academic policy issues,” passed a resolution calling on the administration to rescind its invitation to Rice. Second, several faculty members vocally protested the decision in the Daily Targum. Most recently, a petition opposing the Board’s decision has surfaced with more than 350 faculty signatories. In response to the resolution passed by the Faculty Council, University President Robert L. Barchi sent out an email championing the Board’s unilateral decision to honor Rice with a law degree and a $35,000 honorarium by: 1) suggesting, without evidence, that as many members of the Rutgers community are in favor as are opposed to the decision ?2) supplying wonderful reasons about why he thinks she is a worthy honoree 3) affirming Rice’s right to “the free exchange of ideas in an environment of civil discourse.” Number three is particularly interesting in light of the fact that, recently, when faculty leaders emailed the Board requesting that they be able to explain their opposition at the next Board meeting, they received a response denying them on the grounds that “The bylaws of the Rutgers University Board of Governors set forth a process for speaking at meetings. Speakers are welcome to address any action items that are listed on the BOG agenda. The selection of Condoleezza Rice was on a previous (Feb. 4, 2014) agenda and approved by the Board of Governors.” There is one problem with this excuse. Many faculty members were unaware of the agenda of the Feb. 4 meeting due to the Board’s negligence in fulfilling their contractual obligation to send the agenda of the meeting to the AAUP-AFT, the main faculty union, beforehand. As their agreement states: “Agenda materials for the regular monthly public meeting of the Board of Governors will be forwarded to the AAUP-AFT at the time they are distributed to the members of the Board of Governors.” Therefore, they chose to silence the faculty by selecting one part of the rules, and neglecting the other.
So much for “the free exchange of ideas in an environment of civil discourse.” So much for democracy. The Board’s “free exchange” amounts to silencing the faculty, our educators, without whom (need I remind them?) there is no education. Their democracy amounts to hypocrisy.
More than hypocrisy, indeed, the events that have unfolded around the Rice scandal illustrate clearer than ever that Rutgers is governed solely by a small group of oligarchs. Through their tactless exercise of power they have revealed this truth clearly: The emperor is naked.
Still, some are insisting that the emperor is wearing clothes, deceived by his deft insistence that we ought to be concerned primarily with the purported virtue of Rice, and not with the fact that, as the Faculty Council affirmed in its letter to him, the decision was stealthily pushed through and unilaterally finalized.
Now, the question is: What are we, the Rutgers community, willing to do about it? Are we willing to keep our heads bowed before the emperor, as he continues to chip away at community control over education, while expanding that of his own and his business cohorts? What will become of education in the future, when it is fully a matter for business leaders to control, manipulate and define? Isn’t this a consequence those who value education for its own sake should be opposing at all costs? Yet this is where we are heading — the Board’s silencing and repression of faculty is a symptom of this trend.
Shawmaf Khubba is a School of Arts and Sciences junior.