Chancellor meets with students, holds forum to air campus issues
Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Richard L. Edwards is grateful for his three children and five grandchildren, having multiple opportunities to travel the world and for being able to work at a great university like Rutgers.
Edwards showed his passion for bettering the University at yesterday’s “Meet the Rutgers University-New Brunswick Chancellor” event in the Atrium Conference Room at the College Avenue Student Center.
Edwards meets with the Rutgers University Student Assembly officers on a monthly basis to gather student input, but this event provided all students with the opportunity to voice their opinions.
“Until last year, we didn’t have a chancellor in New Brunswick,” Edwards said. “Now that I’m the chancellor in New Brunswick, it’s important for me to hear what is on students’ minds.”
At the meeting, students had a chance to ask questions regarding the status of the University. Topics ranged from the new library policy to the faculty and staff wage negotiations.
Roxanne Dalere, director of marketing for Rutgers University Programming Association, addressed the possibility of building larger venues for big events. At last week’s event, where Daymond John from ABC’s “Shark Tank” spoke, RUPA maxed out at 560 students in only 20 minutes, said Dalere, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
Edwards agreed larger venues are desperately needed on campus. He said a plan is being drafted that focuses on the next five to 20 years. The plan proposes a “fairly larger” student center be built behind Brower Commons, which would house a number of meeting spaces.
“We would have to engage in fundraising activities to get the funds for those sort of facilities, but we know they are needed,” he said.
In addition, the plan proposes a pedestrian and bicycle bridge that would link the College Avenue campus with campuses on the other side of the Raritan River.
Khalid Samarrai, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, addressed the faculty and staff wage contract negotiations. He said tuition has been steadily rising for years, but the faculty and staff have not seen raises.
For every 1 percent increase in faculty and staff salaries, there is a 1 percent increase in tuition, Edwards said. This fact must be considered during negotiations.
The administration is actively negotiating with faculty and staff unions, Edwards said. There are currently 28 unions for the Rutgers faculty and staff, and the administration met with them yesterday. There will be another meeting on Monday, which will hopefully result in an agreement.
Samarrai also addressed an unequal distribution of funds among departments, particularly the treatment of the Athletics Department.
The joining of the Big Ten is an investment for Rutgers because in six years, the University will get a full share of the Big Ten revenue, which will wipe out the deficit in terms of the funding to the Athletic Department, Edwards said.
One of the biggest problems in the budget is not the Athletics Department, but the cost of integrating the biomedical and health sciences at Rutgers, Edwards said. The integration has cost around $65 to $70 million, with no money provided by the state.
“You can say, ‘Do away with athletics,’ but it’s not going to happen,” Edwards said. “We just joined the Big Ten and have already seen a major increase in out-of-state applications.”
Edwards sympathized with the staff’s argument that the cost of living in New Jersey is greater than other states. But Rutgers’ faculty wages are in the upper percentile in terms of full-time and associate professor salaries, he said.
Students also questioned the new library policy that requires students to show an ID after 10 p.m.
Sam Clark, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, raised concerns regarding whether the new library policy will isolate Rutgers from the New Brunswick community.
“What is your opinion on Alexander Library being a public library and New Brunswick facility?” he asked.
With a background in social work, Edwards said he is naturally concerned about the issue of homelessness. However, Rutgers libraries are not public libraries, he said, they are for the University.
His concerns regarding safety trump his concerns over whether Rutgers libraries can offer shelter for the homeless. Edwards would rather know the library is full of University students.
“I think society has a responsibility to provide those kind of things for people,” Edwards said. “I was not involved in the decision, but it seemed like a reasonable decision given safety concerns.”
Rutgers has an Office of Community Engagement to promote involvement. Edwards said the University is not looking to create more policies to isolate itself from New Brunswick, but rather policies that unite the community with Rutgers.
“Every university I’ve been to … all of them have ‘town and gown’ problems. Whenever you put a university in a town, there are going to be some issues,” Edwards said. “It could be students urinating in people’s lawns or having beer cans in trees.”