Barchi recaps current affairs, student safety at Rutgers
Current disaster protocols, environmentally friendly initiatives of the University's 2030 plan and the future of vetting professionals with a history of sexual misconduct are but a few of the topics Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi spoke on with members of The Daily Targum’s board yesterday.
In light of recent school shootings, Barchi said that the University takes safety on campus very seriously and holds regular meetings to consider new and better practices to undergo in the event of an active shooter on campus. The school also conducts shooting drills all around campus to ensure the preparation of the Rutgers Police Department (RUPD) for crises.
“We spend a lot of time thinking about these things ... We do five or six active-shooter or disaster drills a year complete with gunshot sounds and the whole nine yards. We have a very well-trained team ... You’ve probably seen some of (the drills) and didn’t even know what was going on,” Barchi said.
These drills and exercises include various units such as Barchi’s central management team, the police and Vice Chancellor Felicia McGinty’s Student of Affairs office. Control centers in each of those locations can immediately link the units together in an emergency situation.
In addition to police enforcement measures, Barchi said that it is important to educate the student body and faculty on what they can do themselves and how to prepare for scenarios like school shootings.
The RUPD website offers several emergency resources including videos on options to consider in the event of an active shooter on campus. There are guidelines for students to follow if the shooter is outside versus inside a building. The department also offers training information sessions on the subject.
“It’s not so much regular drills as it is education. What the police are doing are, you know, run-hide-attack kind of information sessions, trying to get that information out there to as many students and faculty and staff as they can,” he said.
Rutgers has already adopted several eco-friendly initiatives on campus, including having one of the biggest solar-powered systems around, Barchi said. In 2013, the University implemented geothermal energy on Livingston campus, which takes advantage of stable temperatures underground and uses that as a source for heating and cooling, minimizing the need for fossil fuels, according to a Rutgers News Release.
Other environmental initiatives from Rutgers include buying alternative energy, making its own heat and electricity and being able to fluctuate between natural gas and oil depending on the needs of the state.
The University currently has 7,000 solar panels on Livingston campus that reduce Rutgers’ electrical demand by 10 percent, save the school $300,000 each year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,200 tons per year, according to Rutgers University Community Repository. These steps are just the first of many more renewable energy and sustainability efforts to be taken in the future.
“We’re very conservative about the eco-friendly nature of things. We just purchased three electric buses and the goal for our bus system is to be completely electric in the next eight or ten years. As we phase out the old diesels, we bring in the electrics. So every way we can, we’re looking to save money and be conscious of the impact of the environment,” he said.
Vetting faculty for sexual misconduct
Earlier this semester, Rutgers placed adjunct professor Sombudha Adhikari on administrative leave after realizing he has a history of sexual misconduct from his previous position at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU), according to the Targum.
This incident occurred approximately nine years ago, Adhikari plead guilty to the charges, was released on $5,000 bail and terminated from his position at FDU. Rutgers hired him in 2008, around the time the incident occurred, and renewed his contract in 2015.
Prior to his arrest, Sam Adhikari went by his full name "Sombudha" on Rutgers, Temple University and Montclair State University rosters.
In regard to hiring individuals with a history of sexual misconduct, Barchi said, “We’re always concerned about the background of the folks that we hire. Whether it’s faculty or staff or anyone else that works at the University or who has contact with our student population especially, and that can be anything from summer camps to graduate students and postdocs in that general classification.”
Between one-half and two-thirds of the University already carry out routine background checks for all new hires, Barchi said. The University is extending this to its entirety and will designate it as the benchmark for new hires.
“That’s not going to necessarily solve these problems, because there are many ways an action at a different location may not be known or accessible or available to anybody asking those kinds of questions, but it's a step in the right direction,” he said. “We will continue to be as vigilant as we can if the situations come to our attention.”