WEEK IN REVIEW: Laurels and Darts | September 28, 2018
FREE SPEECH PANEL
Last Friday, University President Robert L. Barchi announced the formation of a Free Speech panel at Rutgers in light of constitutional protections that allow for speech that some find “offensive or morally repugnant.” This standing panel will consist of First Amendment experts and legal scholars and it will advise the Office of the General Counsel and, in turn, the Office of Employment Equity in assessing all matters that involve questions of free speech. While the line between offensive or morally reprehensible speech and hate speech is very thin, we laurel the formation of this panel as an important step to ensure that inalienable rights are protected.
A collaboration between Rutgers—Newark, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, the State Parole Board, Rutgers—New Brunswick and a group of other colleges in the Garden State brought into fruition the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons (NJ-STEP) program. The program is meant to help incarcerated people in New Jersey attain greater access higher education. Additionally, it assists people released from prison in their transition to college life. While this program is undoubtedly positive, we dart the fact that there are far too many unnecessary prison sentences that have severely undermined the ability of so many people to become educated and grow as people.
Because of the financial challenges faced by many students, the Rutgers Board of Trustees has allocated $2 million to support tuition assistance grants, emergency assistance and student-based food pantries through 2020. The Task Force on Student Aid, which was established by the Board of Trustees in 2017 to study the financial concerns of Rutgers students, recently published a report that reaffirmed the financial assistance initiative. As the national student crisis continues to weigh on the shoulders of Rutgers students, we laurel this initiative as a necessary measure but note that this should not be the only action taken to confront the financial challenges of students.
DO AWAY WITH JUUL
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health have given Rutgers a five-year grant for $18 million that the marketing of tobacco has on public health. This initiative is beneficial, no doubt. But while this is happening, millions of young people are becoming hooked on nicotine not through the use of combustible tobacco products, but through electronic devices like Juuls. We dart the fact that nicotine addiction in young people is still so prominent, and we hope that more initiatives like this one will work to hamper the drug’s grasp on young members of the population.
On Thursday, a New Jersey Senate Committee approved a new bill that set a national standard as it would impose the strongest statewide ban on everyday plastic products in the U.S. Now it will go to the Senate Appropriations Committee and then to the Senate President Stephen Sweeney to be considered for a full house vote. The proposed bill would prohibit New Jersey stores from distributing single-use plastic bags, plastic drinking straws and polystyrene food containers. In addition to the ban on plastic products, the bill would also establish a 10 cent fee on single-use paper bags, which would finance a "Plastic Pollution Prevention Fund." We laurel this proposed bill as a necessary and vital step in preserving our environment and bettering the health of our community.
SUPPORT ASSAULT VICTIMS
Yesterday, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave testimony in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee about Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the nominee for associate Supreme Court justice, having sexually assaulted her. In addition to Ford, two other women, Julie Swetnick and Deborah Ramirez, have come out with similar allegations against Kavanaugh. It seems that at this point in time the cultural movement toward backing women who come out as victims of sexual assault is increasingly gaining traction — and rightly so. Many victims of sexual assault choose not to speak out for many reasons, such as shame and fear of backlash, and suffer in silence for years. We dart the fact that so many victims of sexual assault feel silenced, and we commend Ford and the other women who came forward about Kavanaugh for their bravery.
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