Rutgers senate will discuss its suggestions for Barchi at upcoming meeting
This coming Friday, the Rutgers University Senate will meet at the Campus Center in Camden, where students, staff and faculty representatives from all factions of Rutgers will meet to discuss future policy and the University state of affairs.
The Senate is a body of 246 members from all campuses and schools within the University that is tasked with advising University officials including Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi and regulating important academic relationships and policies.
“The Rutgers University Senate is the only advisory and legislative body that represents the entire community of faculty, students, staff, administrators and alumni to the Rutgers' president and boards,” according to the Senate’s website. “It serves as the principal advisory body to the president.”
Meeting eight or nine times a year, the Senate serves primarily as an advisory organization according to Joseph Markert, a faculty representative for the Rutgers Business School.
Though it provides insight and guidance to Barchi on certain matters, it also has the power to directly regulate things like the academic calendar and official relationships between the University and other institutions of education.
The assistant professor of professional practice was elected to the Senate 12 years ago when he was still a part-time lecturer. Now he represents the Rutgers Business School and is up for re-election every three years. Though listed as a faculty representative, Markert said his job is to represent the interests of his entire school.
“Whenever bills come up, or we call them ‘charges,’ which would have an impact on the business school and the business school students, I try to represent the needs of the business school in my vote,” Markert said.
Along with being a senator for more than a decade, Markert is also the co-chair of the Faculty and Personnel Affairs Committee. Such committees receive charges or proposals from other senators and parts of the University, address their concerns on certain topics and then debate and draft legislation around them, much like in the actual U.S. Senate, Markert said.
Once a charge is passed, it is presented to Barchi who, depending on the nature of the bill, can present it to the Board of Governors who may then choose to adopt the bill as policy. The Senate often advises the president on many important issues and challenges facing the University.
The Senate also has the ability to set academic standards. These include the requirements for admission, qualification for certain honors and scholarships, as well as the metrics by which professors and other teachers are assessed and their workload.
The Senate has advised the the University on many matters, including the recent merger with University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. As new schools are created and incorporated into the University, the Senate changes to accommodate the presence of new interests and expands its membership.
Along with faculty and staff representatives, the Senate has 58 student members tasked with representing the interests of their colleagues to the Rutgers administration.
Shivane Patel, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore, is one such student. As a representative from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, he brings the interests and concerns of those thousands of students to the Senate floor.
“As one of the student senators, I represent the voices of thousands of students and make sure it is heard by the president and his administration,” Patel said. “Thousands of students pay thousands of dollars to attend this University, and decisions made at the Senate affect each and every one of us. As a result, I believe that it is imperative that students get a say in these decisions and speak for or against them.”
Patel, like other student representatives, gets elected by the governing association of his respective school, in his case, the SEBS Governing Council. Student representatives present the concerns of their schools to the Senate, and relay these judgements and actions back to their governing bodies.
“Every meeting, the Senate makes decisions that can impact many people at Rutgers — especially students," Patel said. “Being a part of every meeting becomes crucial because as University senators, we get the privilege of being a part of an important decision-making process, so each and every vote matters.”