Barchi responds to student concerns over minimum wage and disability access at yesterday's RUSA meeting
University President Robert L. Barchi addressed budgeting, University growth and other student concerns at last night's Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) town hall.
Barchi said that the Rutgers Law School and School of Nursing have made notable climbs in national rankings, making Rutgers more attractive to students and professors.
He said that Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences has expanded greatly over that last five years and continues to positively affect all departments and campuses at Rutgers.
Barchi also mentioned that the University is looking to increase fundraising and alternative sources of income to better fund the University's needs — following a continued decline in state appropriations.
After a short presentation, he took questions from the audience.
Students raised concerns on a variety of topics, including the fight for a $15 minimum wage, Rutgers Students With Children, budget allocations and student protesters. Barchi commented at length about Rutgers' “unrestricted net position,” elaborating that the approximately $800 million are “unrestricted” funds but are not uncommitted or freely available.
"Unrestricted net position (28) refers to all the funds of a university whose use is not legally restricted — and all universities have that. In this case, it includes a variety of funds. Which, while not legally restricted, are absolutely committed, or have already been committed,” Barchi said.
The president said that these funds are already tied up in emergency funds and other spending plans, and that Rutgers does not just have $800 million of free assets to spend. He said that Rutgers uses all the budget’s allocated funds, and that any leftover money is used to make sure tuition and other student expenses do not increase significantly.
Students from several organizations were present to voice their demands for a minimum increase to $15 an hour. They said that the recent raise to $11 dollars is not enough to meet the financial demands of students.
The Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops (RUSAS) announced that it would begin a hunger strike in protest of the University not providing its student employees with a living wage.
Barchi also responded to a student with disabilities who asked about accessibility issues and shortcomings when it comes to the University’s handicapped resources. The president cited an outside report conducted a few years ago that found that Rutgers did not adequately meet all the needs of its disabled students, and that facilities were outdated and inaccessible in many instances. He said that updating buildings and providing more resources toward accommodating the needs of disabled students on campus is something the University needs to focus on in the future.
After Barchi’s presentation, the assembly took a recess and came back to vote unanimously in favor of co-sponsoring the Women Organizing Against Harassment “Take Back the Night” rally and march on April 18, using its social media to publicize the event.
RUSA then heard a presentation from the RUSA Internal Affairs Committee (IAC) about increasing the transparency of the the assembly's allocations process.
IAC presented a report on the RUSA allocations board to the assembly and made the report available to students on the RUSA mailing list. The “Report on Allocations Transparency” by the IAC describes how the Allocations Board processes and disseminates the approximately $1 million it receives every year from the student activity fee, and recommends changes on the process of allocating money to student organizations.
Currently, the Allocations Board receives a certain amount of money from the student activity fee that appears on the tuition bill of students, said Nicholas Tharney, a Rutgers Business School sophomore and a representative from the Rutgers Business Governing Association.
He said that RUSA has an obligation to be truthful and transparent to all student and student organizations, and allow the Rutgers community to better understand how money is spent by its student government.
Tharney’s proposed legislation, among other things, would make the “formula and cap sheets” of allocations open to the public and allow students to see how the board processes funding requests by organizations. The legislation received notable resistance from members of the Allocations Board, who maintain that restrictions in the availability of these forms are for the benefit of all interested parties.