‘Diversity’ card permits imbalance of power


Commentary


Last week, Chancellor Richard L. Edwards notified the Rutgers community about the formation of a task force that would work to “improve the student experience.” This task force, along with the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History, have been the administration’s response to a brewing discontent among faculty, staff and students. Although the recent responses may seem proactive, their goals are neither clearly outlined nor are they openly accessible to the broader community. Instead, any hope for accurate representation of the student body and faculty concerns are further fractionated and compartmentalized into some ambiguous five-person task force framework. This reproduced mini-administration, if you will, comprised of the same students and faculty who were once raising tangible concerns, undergo an uncanny role shift, now left to devise like administrators with ambiguous titles and confused positions, further dwindling any chance for change. Clearly, the ways in which we structure representative bodies at the University are flawed. In light of their responses, the administration realizes this issue too.

Instead of making their own decisions and positions at the University contestable, outlined and penetrable, they enjoy throwing around buzzwords like diversity — as if the achievement of multiculturalism alone will cure the blatant power inequality the administration holds against faculty, staff and students. Instead, the administration’s stress on multiculturalism in its strategic planning has reproduced the same problems. If diversifying representation is the administration’s concern, it ought to foremost make professorships once again sustainable career paths for a wide array of qualified individuals with varying class, ethnic, racial and gendered experiences. When departments are set up to compete for squandered funding, while the football coach is the highest paid public employee in the entire state, one is left dumbfounded by the administration’s supposed role to foster an educational institution. Increasing tuition year after year, cutting funding to the most critical departments that foster alternate historical narratives, meanwhile claiming that we need a committee “charged with examining the role that the people of these disadvantaged groups played in the founding and development of Rutgers University, and with making recommendations to me on how the University can best acknowledge their influence on our history,” is morally inconsistent. It seems that the administration only asserts to foster critical knowledge production when it does not have to pay for it, as the humanities departments at the University fail to generate high profit margins in an increasingly corporatized institution.

Students want to engage with the community and their professors, but cannot do so if their instructors, some of which are only paid $4,800 a course, are underpaid and overworked. Whenever actual concerns are brought to a table, instead of direct engagement with the so-called facilitators of this institution, a committee, an office or a task force is birthed with no real solution in sight. Thus, their responding with more administrative-type positions for students and faculty to enact on these task forces, rather than the restructuring and reducing the number of highly paid administrators, is disillusioning to say the least.

Meryem Uzumcu is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in planning and public policy and women's and gender studies.

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Meryem Uzumcu

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