University President Robert Barchi addresses student concerns at town hall
Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi discussed not only the college's accomplishments at last night's Rutgers University Student Assembly meeting, but also touched upon social issues dating back to the school's founding.
Last night, Barchi participated in a public forum held by RUSA at the Student Activities Center on the College Avenue campus in order to directly address the questions of students.
“We are in a very challenged place as a University,” Barchi said. “It’s not because there’s some disaster, but because we’re trying to move from a long time status quo. We’re on an upward trajectory, but it’s an upward slope.”
When the University was founded, indigenous people were displaced from their homes, and the economy of the time was based on enslaved people, he said when addressing social issues as number one on his list of issues faced at Rutgers. The answer to this is the formation of the Committee of Enslaved and Disenfranchised People.
There were a couple of students who asked Barchi questions concerning this issue.
“Will the formation of the Committee of Enslaved and Disenfranchised People result in an apology to the Lenape Tribe? Will there be a Native American Culture Center?” said Monica Torres, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
The committee was created in order to address the problems that have been pointed out by students in the audience, and students are encouraged to interact with the members, Barchi said.
“In terms of an intercultural center, this is an area where I have some specific feelings in how it should be done,” Barchi said. “I think it does not work when people are isolated and move themselves away from the rest of the community ... It is possible to have a multi-cultural facility that shares common space.”
University Chancellor Richard L. Edwards plays a role in the formation of the Committee.
“The committees will be chaired by Deborah White, a distinguished professor in history,” Edwards said. “Members will include a representative from Camden and Newark. They’re going to look at our history and focus on that piece of native land and slave holding forbearers of the University, and come up with recommendations as to how we can recognize and memorialize that history.”
The members of the Committee are expected to be named by the Monday or Tuesday following Thanksgiving, he said.
“This is our 250th anniversary, we have been doing a lot of planning for that,” Barchi said. “Not many universities can go back 250 years before the birth of a nation and say that’s where we’ve started. That’s both a blessing and a curse, and something we need to be thinking about.”
The University will also be addressing the challenges that the community is currently facing, and including the University Physical Master Plan that aims to address these issues, he said.
For the first time in history, the University’s endowment surpassed the billion dollar mark. This was possible through working with the governor and the legislator to support construction and get money raised through fundraising, he said.
Rutgers entering the Big Ten and the introduction of the new Honors College are other accomplishments new to the University, he said.
Students also had questions concerning Rutgers entering the Big Ten.
Evan Covello, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, wanted to know if Rutgers' transition into the Big Ten was considered successful overall.
The transition into the Big Ten has had its high and low points, but the University has seen many benefits from being in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, Barchi said. The University can get countless books at once, and students can take courses from other Big Ten schools and apply them at Rutgers.
“Football players will also need four to five or six years to transition because the level of competition is entirely different,” he said. “Anyone that thinks we’re suddenly going to go into the Big Ten and knock off Ohio State I want to say is smoking something.”
Since joining the Big Ten, the number of applicants from the midwest went up 18 percent, and the international student applications went up 40 percent, he said. The Master Plan will help to accommodate the increasing number of students and faculty.
The Master Plan is a transformation and rebuilding of the infrastructure that has not been done for about 20 years, he said.
“We need to see what we’ve accomplished in the last few years, and what the challenges are facing us in the community right now,” Barchi said. “There’s a lot of little things under the surface that have to be discussed before we can make progress.”