Chancellor Richard Edwards holds regular forum at College Avenue Student Center
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chancellor of Rutgers—New Brunswick Richard L. Edwards has a deep history rooted in the University, and pays it back by holding regular forums to discuss anything Rutgers students have on their minds at the College Avenue Student Center over lunch.
“I’m currently in the process of implementing the Rutgers—New Brunswick Strategic Plan, which is a five-year plan for bold changes to make to the University to sustain it as a high and nationally-ranked research institution,” he said.
Rutgers students, faculty, alumni and board members formed this strategic plan over the course of 18 months, Edwards said. It lasts from 2015 to 2020 and focuses on a wide range of topics concerning the University and strives to better the experiences students have while at college, he said.
“Student safety in off campus housing is another big concern for students,” Edwards said.
Even though there are not more crimes occurring at Rutgers now than in the past, the crimes seem to be more concerning to students since they are now notified about any crime alerts, he said. Student Affairs recently had a table outside the College Avenue Student Center, where they handed students packages with whistles, safety alarms and guidebooks with tips on how to be safe in off-campus housing.
“I think these initiatives and safety tips will be helpful in keeping students more alert and safe when living off-campus,” Edwards said.
Recently, Student Affairs staff traveled to Ohio State University to receive advice on how to keep students living in off-campus housing to feel safe and protected. The Rutgers staff members learned about good and bad initiatives enacted by Ohio State University, and could use these ideas to make students feel safe in downtown New Brunswick, he said.
Edwards did not personally travel to Ohio State University, but participated in a two-day workshop when Ohio State officials came to the University to discuss the safety of off-campus students and New Brunswick residents.
“This program was very effective because it helped the University understand what changes need to be made to ensure the safety of students and people living in New Brunswick,” he said.
The Rutgers University Police Department joined with the New Brunswick Police Department to determine whether or not students are staying safe and following certain guidelines, Edwards said.
In terms of some students' fear about sexual assault, Edwards said that last year, a survey was emailed to all University students, asking them various questions regarding sexual assault. Rutgers faculty members are currently using these responses from the survey to conduct a series of new procedures to ensure that students do not feel at risk of sexual assault.
Annie Clark and Andrea Pino from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were victims of sexual assault and created a documentary, “The Hunting Ground,” which explores difficulties in dealing with sexual assault and provides advice for students on how to deal with this crime, Edwards said. There is a free screening of the film, as well as a chance to ask the survivors any questions, at the College Avenue Gymnasium on Oct. 1 at 8 p.m., he said.
“This should be an eye opening event for students,” Edwards said. “I encourage all students to attend and to learn about the experiences that these young girls had to face,” he said.
The University's Office for Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences program implemented a new advising procedure, in which students can be alerted early on if they should be worried about their grades, he said.
“Students will often spend a lot of extra time and money in college due to poor grades, but hopefully this new strategy prevents that from occurring,” Edwards said.
This advising program allows students to be notified quickly and efficiently because the advisors can access student schedules and determine when they are not in class and are available to meet, he said.
Henry Yeh, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, is disappointed that first-year students are required to take classes — such as General Psychology and Introduction to Communication and Information Processes — depending on their major, but are not forced to take a public speaking, criminal justice or finance class.
“An accounting or criminal justice course could teach students early on how to handle money wisely and learn skills that can be used outside the classroom,” he said.
Agreeing with Yeh, Edwards said students need a broad background, and should incorporate finance and public speaking into their education.
“It is scary when college students get credit card applications and do not know any better and end up having to deal with a lot of debt,” he said. “A personal financial management workshop would greatly benefit students."
Edwards briefly touched on the issue students were having with Rutgers' Internet and distributed denial of service attacks. This issue has occurred at other universities as well as Rutgers and the technology department has learned improvements so it does not affect the students as much, Edwards said.
“As opposed to last year, the Internet issue was resolved in a matter of a few hours and the person attacking the Rutgers internet is not able to access any personal information,” Edwards said.
Zach Hosseini, director of Communications and Marketing at Rutgers, along with Edwards, discussed the University's plans for their 250th anniversary this spring. The activities will commence on Nov. 10 with the ringing of the bell at Old Queens, he said.
“This day was very important in Rutgers University history because it marks when William Franklin, the last Colonial governor of New Jersey, signed for Rutgers University to be established as a institution,” Edwards said.
Rutgers will also be having a “Black on the Banks” conference at Neilson Dining Hall on Nov. 6 and 7 to celebrate the 250th anniversary, he said. This event will focus on a discussion of two African American women who attended Douglass College, and will speak about the difficulties they faced of achieving equity and access in high education, Edwards said.
“We are still in the midst of planning programs but there will be a lot of fun and interesting events for students to celebrate Rutgers 250th anniversary, such as guest speakers from different departments at the University and year long celebrations,” he said.