Petition contests library ID policy
Rutgers Libraries have been forced to escort student protestors out of library buildings due to a recent policy change requiring all library users to display Rutgers identification after 10 p.m.
Rutgers University Libraries began implementing the new mandate on Nov. 16 after considering methods to reduce crowding at different libraries, according to a previous article in The Daily Targum.
The change also reflected several students’ wishes. A petition on change.org that School of Arts and Sciences senior Mollie Khan started in March in response to negative experiences with New Brunswick community members in University libraries reflects concerns that could have helped put the new rule into place.
“[There were] a few incidents [that] occurred where I felt unsafe at the library... I witnessed a non-student touching himself and heard others asking students for money on various occasions,” Khan said.
Khan sent the petition to some friends, who in turn sent it to their friends until the petition had quickly garnered over 400 signatures. Then was put on the backburner.
The petition opposing the policy has 728 signatures as of publication time, according to change.org.
In the Targum article, Melissa Just, associate librarian for research and instructional services, said community members are no more likely to be the subject of incident reports than students are.
Harry Glazer, communications director for Rutgers Libraries, clarified that every campus library, not just College Avenue libraries, is implementing the change
“A lot of our libraries are really crowded, especially at night,” he said. “I can tell you from my observation, the later it gets, the more crowded it gets.”
He said he was “uncomfortable” with the characterization many students have given to the policy that it was intended to bar homeless community members from the libraries.
The libraries are open to community members beginning at 7 a.m., he said, and provide them with a space for a much larger part of the day. But ultimately, the libraries’ function is to serve tuition-paying students and hired faculty.
Glazer said on the first day of the policy, roughly 10 to 15 people refused to show identification. About six of them had to be escorted out by the Rutgers University Police Department.
Andy Bittle, a member of Students for Shared Governance, said the club organized the incident to protest the new policy.
He could not attend that night, but demonstrated his opposition the next day in Kilmer Library on Livingston. After refusing to show his ID to the employee walking around the building, Bittle claimed the employee had a “dramatic” response.
“[The employee] said, ‘I’m done,’ and walked away,” Bittle said. “He seemed very exasperated, which showed to me, at least, that he did not really believe in this policy.”
Bittle, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, said Rutgers typically promotes integration between students and the New Brunswick community, and this action goes against the message the University has been sending.
As winter approaches and the temperature drops, the homeless will not have a place to go, he said. New Brunswick does not have enough resources available to accommodate them.
“It’s a very classist policy,” he said. “The majority of people who attend Rutgers have resources available to them ... and some people don’t have access to those resources.”
Glazer said homelessness is a big problem, both in the city of New Brunswick and the state of New Jersey, and there are not enough services to support that population.
But the library can only play a minor role in the issue, and it is unfair for people to expect for them to solve the problem on their own.
“We, like anybody, care about [the homeless],” he said. “But the libraries are not equipped to solve this problem.”
In addition to the protest on Nov. 16, two or three students per night have refused to show identification, he said. But so far, 25 or more additional students have also approached the staff members and thanked them for implementing the policy.
Bittle said Students for Shared Governance backed a bill in the Rutgers University Student Assembly that opposed the change.
“This policy goes against the spirit of what a library is,” he said.
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