Choose your battles with Rutgers wisely
Students have responsibility to avoid spreading misinformation in activism
At Rutgers, we have a conscientious student body that works hard to stay on top of the University to ensure it maintains its commitment to shared governance and inclusion. But sometimes that enthusiasm gets out of hand, and combined with misinformation, that progressive activism sets us back more than it moves us forward.
According to a new and unfortunately misguided petition on change.org, the University is eliminating individual departmental graduation ceremonies and consolidating them with the larger commencement ceremony at High Point Solutions Stadium. These are all changes the petition claims are being made without any input from the student body. The petition itself reads: “Rutgers: Keep individual departmental SAS graduations in original locations — do not relocate to stadium! Where is the shared governance?!”
That would certainly be a problem — if it were true.
It’s true the structure of the graduation ceremonies is changing, but it’s a couple of logistical tweaks and the addition of a convocation ceremony for the School of Arts and Sciences — nothing is being cancelled. Plus, all of these changes are being made with input from a task force that does, in fact, include student representatives.
In the past, the commencement ceremony held in the stadium is the “main” event, with all graduating students from every school at Rutgers invited to attend — students from the School of Engineering, School of Arts and Sciences, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, etc. But while most of these schools also have their own convocation ceremonies, the School of Arts and Sciences does not. This year, the administration plans to add a convocation ceremony for the School of Arts and Sciences that will follow the larger commencement ceremony in the stadium.
In addition, individual departments have always held smaller ceremonies to honor the accomplishments of individual majors in a more intimate setting. The smaller ceremonies are often held throughout the week before the commencement ceremony, but many are held on the same day. Logistically, this gets complicated when it comes to traffic, police presence, public safety and other issues since there are people traveling between campuses to get from the departmental ceremonies to commencement at the stadium on Busch campus. So, to avoid these issues on the day of commencement, all departments are being asked to move the individual ceremonies to other days throughout the week.
With a little research, we looked into the issue and spoke to Dean Peter March (to whom the petition is addressed) to clarify the details of the changes being made, and they are completely different from the claim made by angry students that departmental convocations are being cancelled altogether. There are already hundreds of signatures on the petition, and if the claims were true, that would be understandable. But instead, it’s completely misinformed and unfounded, and those signing it are seriously undermining and taking away credibility from the voice of students who actually do have valid causes to bring to the administration’s attention. There’s nothing wrong with being critical, but it’s more important to thoroughly check the facts and get them straight before starting a new protest. Don’t jump on a bandwagon, even if it seems well intentioned, without informing yourself as much as you can first. If we are really committed trying to repair the relationship between the administration and the students for greater transparency and communication, we need to be smart about picking our battles and refrain from creating them.