Administration should show solidarity
Rutgers’ diversity means nothing without support for community
Rutgers students have remained vocal throughout the past few weeks of heated racial tension stemming from grand jury decisions. Organizing quickly, students protested on at least three separate occasions, while two of the protests have been large, organized movements incorporating hundreds of members of the Rutgers community at a time. The most recent protest took place this past Friday in response to the Eric Garner grand jury decision not to indict the officer that caused his death using an illegal chokehold. Students began gathering at the Douglass Student Center and then marched onto Route 18 during rush hour traffic, where they remained for roughly an hour. While standing on the highway, a number of student protestors participated in a die-in, laying down in solidarity with victims of police brutality, as a human chain of students formed around them.
During the protest, students began using #RU4BlackLives to express their sentiments online. Many of those affiliated with the University have made clear their disdain for institutionalized racism and police brutality, as well as their disapproval for the two grand juries that failed to indict officers involved with the deaths of unarmed black men. This hashtag addresses student sentiment over the recent issues, but what can be said for the administration? While today marks the first official business day since students shut down Route 18, University President Robert L. Barchi and the administration have yet to release a statement addressing student protests and the cause at large.
In the past, the Rutgers administration has heard student voices and acted accordingly. When students protested apartheid in South Africa, the administration responded by divesting from a handful of companies with holdings in the country. While those actions stemmed directly from protesting administration and staging a sit-in at a meeting of the Rutgers Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees, this is not an issue that students should have highlight to administration. The lack of response makes it seem as though they have turned a blind eye to an issue that is erupting across the nation. As an institution, Rutgers uses its vast diversity as a selling point. The number of students from a myriad of minority backgrounds and various socioeconomic classes is constantly referenced in order to attract more applicants. There are also a number of University programs that support the academic growth of minority students, but if the University does not address social issues pertaining to such a large group of students, then what can be said of the importance Rutgers really places on diversity?
Both the Rutgers University Police Department and the New Brunswick Police Department have also failed to release statements regarding protests. Although the level of professionalism displayed by NBPD during Friday’s protest was commendable, their silence speaks volumes. Claims have been made that protesting in New Brunswick does nothing and that student should go major cities in order to have their voices heard. But two years ago, New Brunswick Police officers were involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, showing that police brutality is a local issue. In September of 2011, Barry “Gene” Deloatch was shot after being approached by New Brunswick police. Students brought the issue to the police by ending their protest with a die-in at the New Brunswick Police Department, an action that merits a response.
Faculty members and professors have come forward to stand in solidarity with student protestors and their actions have not gone unnoticed. But Barchi and the administration have so far not even released a statement of solidarity with the protestors, students and others affected by the injustices that have been made clear in our own judicial system. We hope to see more support from the administration for, at the very least, the students at this University who they so proudly present as the faces of Rutgers’ diversity.