Rutgers faculty union officially endorses March for Science
On Saturday, thousands of people are expected to attend the March for Science in Washington, D.C.
In New Jersey, the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) has chosen to endorse the march and help students participate.
The March for Science will advocate for the importance of science and the enactment of evidence-based policies, according to its website.
The march will take place on April 22 and will be headquartered in Washington, D.C., with over 500 satellite marches occurring in cities across the globe, according to the site.
David Hughes, the president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT and a professor in the Department of Anthropology, said the Rutgers AAUP-AFT is sponsoring a satellite march in Trenton, New Jersey and will provide transportation for staff and students who wish to attend the march in Washington, D.C.
Hughes said the Rutgers AAUP-AFT is endorsing the March on Science to support faculty members who are worried about President Donald J. Trump and his administration’s stance toward science and education.
These faculty members are primarily worried about three aspects of the Trump administration, Hughes said.
The first aspect causing concern is the administration’s tendency to act imprecisely and impartially, Hughes said.
“The kind way of saying it is that they’re making decisions based on hunches and intuition,” Hughes said. “The unkind, but perhaps, more accurate way of describing it, is that they’re making at least some assumptions based on prejudice – positive prejudice for their friends and business cronies and negative prejudice toward people of color and women.”
The second aspect of the Trump administration faculty members find worrisome is its plans for spending, Hughes said.
The administration’s budget proposal outline for 2018 calls for a 31 percent decrease in spending on the Environmental Protection Agency and a 14 percent decrease in spending on education, according to the New York Times.
Hughes said if the Trump administration puts this preliminary budget into practice, many people and organizations could be adversely impacted.
“These cuts will have a devastating effect on Rutgers and every research university and every researcher (throughout the country),” he said.
Hughes said he thinks Trump’s prospective spending cuts stem from the president’s desire to suppress dissenting opinions.
“He’s not doing this simply … because he wants to balance the budget,” Hughes said. “He’s doing this because he wants to cut off criticism at the knees … imagine a tobacco company suddenly getting to run the National Cancer Institute.”
Hughes said the final reason faculty members are troubled revolves around the Trump administration’s efforts to implement a travel ban against citizens from six predominately Muslim countries.
The ban, which is currently on hold, threatens to prevent scientists from the six affected countries from traveling to the United States to engage in research and partake in international scientific conferences, Hughes said.
Matthew Buckley, the founder of the March on Science in New Jersey and a member of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, said the travel ban could significantly affect the future of global scientific research.
“Science is an international effort,” Buckley said. “Losing the ability to work with smart people from around the world is something that will become very important (later on).”
The professor in the Department of Physics said he hopes the overriding theme of the March on Science will strike a common chord with people who are thinking about participating.
“Science affects all of us,” he said. “(These) issues are issues that everyone should be concerned about.”
Students are encouraged to attend one of the many marches occurring on April 22, even if they are not involved in the sciences, Buckley said.
Buckley said students who do not consider themselves “scientists” should not feel as though they cannot partake in the March on Science.
“This is not a march only for scientists, (and) this is not a march only for students who want to become scientists,” he said. “It’s a march for people who would like scientific evidence to be part of how we make decisions.”
Sam Coakley, a junior in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and president of the SEBS Governing Council, said he thinks students are looking forward to the march.
“I think we’ll have good representation … as a Rutgers group,” Coakley said. “I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying that they’re going to go.”
Coakley said people should understand that the March on Science could have an important role in spurring science to the forefront of international discussions.
Anybody who thinks science should be taken seriously by domestic and international policymakers should be proactive and make their opinions known, Coakley said.
“It’s important, if you have these views, to go out and express yourself and try to bring about change,” he said. “Sitting around isn’t going to do anything.”
Nicholas Simon is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. He is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.