Student parents report disappointing meeting with Rutgers administration
After more than two years of petitioning for student-parent support, members of Rutgers Students With Children (RSWC) left their meeting with the University administration yesterday unappeased.
“Speaking frankly, the meeting was disappointing,” said Anjanette Vaidya, president and founder of RSWC and a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “Our meeting was with Karen Stubaus, who is the chief of staff, and she came completely unprepared for the meeting. She kept repeating that she 'works with faculty' so we weren’t even sure why were in a meeting with her.”
Initially, members of the organization planned on speaking with University President Robert L. Barchi when their petition, calling for institutionalized support of student parents at Rutgers, collected more than 600 signatures, according to the petition.
In an interview with The Daily Targum’s editorial board earlier this week, Barchi said, "The petition came to me as president of the University, but it was transferred to (Debasish) Dutta as the Chancellor of New Brunswick, because it is his domain, his responsibility and his authority to do that ... I don't want to have an organization where access is not possible, that's not acceptable and this one, we simply did not hear about until before Christmas, that's the first time it came to my attention. I think we're moving expeditiously to get them a hearing with Chancellor Dutta and have their concerns addressed."
Vaidya said members of RSWC met with Stubaus, who works under Dutta, while the chancellor attended a separate meeting prior to theirs. She said Stubaus also attended that meeting.
“When she came into our meeting, she pretended as though she hadn’t heard of any of our demands before and was unfamiliar with them,” Vaidya said. Since their meeting, members of RSWC have petitioned to meet with University Chancellor Debasish Dutta.
She said Barchi’s recollection of the group’s ongoing efforts, or lack thereof came as a surprise.
“Barchi has been copied on our emails since 2016," she said. “We have those emails, we’ve even publicized. If you go on our Facebook page, you can see emails as far back as, I think, the ones we posed were December 2016, where Barchi was copied on a bunch of emails concerning Rutgers Students With Children basic demands.”
Some of the group’s demands include priority registration, student-parent parking passes and a website listing supports and services.
RSWC wants to see student parents recognized as a student population at Rutgers and receive the same institutionalized support that any student population would, Vaidya said.
“In general, I’m supportive of the needs of our students with children, and I want to make sure that they have access in the same way all of our other students do and our veterans do and all our other student populations do. The specifics of the individual requests I will refer to Chancellor Dutta and his group to discuss ...” Barchi said.
Vaidya’s initial email to Barchi occurred on Nov. 10, 2016. She details her experience as a student parent at Rutgers after having failed out twice and directs him to an article featured in The Atlantic about Aliea Hughes — a student mother who failed out of Rutgers.
Barchi is also found copied on a Dec. 5, 2016 email that was also sent to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Felicia McGinty, according to the RSWC Facebook page.
Earlier this year was the first time that RSWC saw heavy exposure surrounding its cause. Vaidya’s disruption of an open forum earlier this year, featuring McGinty, was viewed on Instagram more than 3,000 times.
A week later, McGinty sent out an email listing resources for students with children, among other resources students should be aware of, such as legal services, housing and food insecurity, according to the email.
“The conversation is going to continue,” said Indira Grullon, vice president of RSWC and a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “Like I said, we’re going to keep pushing hard. We’re going to keep letting (the administration) know that this is a serious situation they need to be aware of.”
At yesterday's Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) meeting, Dutta said he was willing to meet with members of RSWC if they were willing to meet with him, according to the Targum.
Stubaus was unable to comment by the time of publication.