Petition asks that vice chancellor not attend Rutgers pre-commencement ceremony for Black and Latinx students
Almost 300 people have signed a petition to prohibit Dr. Felicia McGinty, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, from participating in the 2018 Rites of Passage, a pre-commencement celebration in May to honor Black and Latinx students.
Among those that have co-authored the Change.org petition are prominent minority student leaders at Rutgers who said that McGinty has positioned herself against University social justice groups that disproportionately affect communities of color, specifically the Black and Latinx communities, according to the petition description. McGinty has been vice chancellor of Student Affairs at the University since 2013.
“Dr. McGinty’s participation in this ceremony is fundamentally hypocritical. (As she is) an administrator who has positioned herself as a barrier to the success of Black and Latinx students to attend that celebration,” said Anjanette Vaidya, president of Rutgers Students With Children (RSWC) and co-author of the petition.
Through her work with RSWC, Vaidya said she strives to increase awareness about the resources available to other young single mothers at the University, like lactation rooms on campus. These were resources that she said “saved” student parents once she started sharing their information with other parents she met through RSWC.
Although Vaidya said she approached McGinty about her story and that of other student parents failing out due to their situation, she said McGinty would not focus on sharing resources for student parents.
“It took until I publicly called her out and disrupted a conference she attended for her to send out an email entitled, 'Resources You Should Know,' and that was this semester,” Vaidya said.
Approximately 2.1 million students — or 11 percent of all undergraduates — are raising children without a partner, and women of color in college are especially likely to be single parents, according to findings from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research 2017 report.
In 2015, 31 percent of single mothers ages 25 and older held a college degree compared to 54 percent of married mothers and 40 percent of women overall, according to the report.
In an email with The Daily Targum, Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor Keisha Dabrowski, speaking on behalf of McGinty, said McGinty will not always see eye-to-eye with the more than 50,000 students at the University.
“In the five years that Dr. McGinty has served the Rutgers—New Brunswick community, she has taken a significant leadership role in advocating for all of our students — especially those who are from disadvantaged backgrounds like herself,” Dabrowski said.
McGinty will always listen, respond to student concerns and seek opportunities to better serve and meet the needs of students, Dabrowski said.
She emphasized that McGinty’s track record includes her dedication to a food pantry that has served more than 350 students, the Black Men's Collective that was started to ensure Black men are graduating at the same rates as their counterparts and the Scarlet and Black Project, a program to educate people on Rutgers’ history of slavery and racism.
Dabrowski said McGinty also met with a group of alumni from the Black on the Banks Conference to address the needs and concerns of students of color.
“(McGinty) has facilitated meetings with this group and senior leadership within the University to work on developing solutions to address student financial needs, basic needs and retention of vulnerable student populations,” Dabrowski said.
Jasmine Dennis, president of Rutgers’ Black Student Union (BSU), said she signed the petition because she was made aware of McGinty’s insensitivity to student parents.
“Being a daughter of a single mom who gracefully raised me on her own, I know how hard it was for her to put her education on hold to raise me the best way she could. My mom will also be graduating with me this May with her bachelor’s degree. I couldn’t be more proud of her, because she sacrificed a lot for me. I’d like to have a speaker who respects women and men like my mom who tries to dominate both as a parent and also as a student,” Dennis said in an email.
The Rites of Passage Ceremony holds cultural significance. It is a pre-commencement ceremony exclusive for Black and Latinx undergraduate or graduate students and consists of the Kente Stole presentation, a reception that presents each student with a Kente cloth, a fabric native to Ghana.
“For many, Rites of Passage is near and dear to their heart so it’s vital that all speakers share the same passion for the ceremony as much as the students do,” Dennis said.
Rutgers’ BSU is an organization dedicated to reaching out to minority students to hear their concerns and grievances, according to its mission statement.
Dennis said in an email that other members of BSU signed the petition and believe it sends a clear message to McGinty about how some minority students feel.
“I think it's important to note that we are calling for her to sit this ceremony out, we aren't calling for her resignation. We are just asking for her to step back. It is important that students be able to hold their administrators accountable, we pay her salary. Her job is Student Affairs and she failed us,” Vaidya said in an email.