Protestors carry coffins on campus to demand representation
Students were dressed in all black and had two coffins leading a funeral procession down the College Avenue campus. The mood was somber, but not because they were mourning someone’s death — they were mourning the loss of student voice on campus.
The procession began Friday morning and participants chanted, “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!”
That chant was just one of many that could be heard as protestors marched across campus. The procession was held in conjunction with the Where RU Barchi coalition and the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers.
The protest’s intent was to be peaceful in nature, allowing the rally, the chants and the spectacle to do all the demonstrating they needed. In this way, they believed their voices would not be able to go unrecognized.
“We came out, in part, to show support for the teachers who are currently in a bargaining session with the administration for new contracts,” said Sivan Rosenthal, a Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops member.
The teacher’s union has been a part of intense bargaining sessions with the administration. The purpose of the sessions is an effort to secure what they believe to be fair wages.
Although the AAUP-AFT has been working to effectively represent the Rutgers faculty since they were established in 1970, and WRUB was recently established, both groups immediately realized the shared interests.
Rosenthal, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said the administration’s issues are also student issues.
“We all feel it’s important to work together as opposed to separately because that way we can learn from each other and show a stronger front,” she said.
Replicating a funeral procession, supporters followed the two coffins marked, “R.I.P. Fair Salaries” and another that was draped in a Rutgers University flag. The marchers carried signs resembling tombstones that displayed statements like, “R.I.P. Collective Bargaining” and “R.I.P. Affordable Tuition.”
Sam Son, a regional organizer of RUSAS, said shared governance is not just students and administration.
Son, a Rutgers Business School sophomore, said it is also about students, teachers, faculty, staff and administration.
“It’s just a peaceful protest to go and show that we are here — we want to hear [President Robert L. Barchi], and we want to be heard,” said Elijah Reiss, School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
Students like Reiss might not represent a specific group or organization on campus, but represent those who still feel the need to demonstrate to the administration the importance of a united school.
Reiss said Barchi is only furthering the gap by not meeting with students and not giving students proper recognition.
The belief is becoming that their voices are slipping away at this University, and all they ask for is to be able to hold onto it and make sure that it can be increased.
“There are several groups on campus that ultimately need to work with President Barchi, despite the fact that all groups should be able to if they want to,” Rosenthal said.
Along with their belief that the administration is not listening to their voices, members of WRUB believe they are being purposely shut out altogether.
“The administration’s way of dealing with us tends to be to stonewall us until they can’t really avoid talking to us,” Son said.
In order to break down the barrier between students and faculty and the administration, the rally members hoped to showcase both their strong desire and strong size in order to make themselves unavoidable to the administration.
Rosenthal said the size of the march was what made them a presence on Friday.
“This is what makes up the University. This is it,” Rosenthal said. “There are more of us than there are of them.”
In the process of becoming recognized by the administration, protestors claimed to have faced several hardships in their attempts.
When members of RUSAS held a demonstration at Old Queens on October 14, the building experienced a lockdown, although University Spokesperson E.J. Miranda said the lockdown was not caused by the demonstration, according to a Daily Targum article.
Rosenthal said WRUB is not doing anything illegal.
“I wouldn’t say that we’re being unreasonable at all to want to speak to someone who is head of our University as someone who goes here,” she said.
Reiss said the protest is just a conspicuous way for students and faculty to make another statement.
By the students and faculty both coming together, the hope was to boldly put the statement of how the distance needs to be lessened between the students and administration.
For the future, the protestors hoped the connection would expand to involve the administration as well.
“Even if we don’t achieve anything today, we at least will have made a statement,” Reiss said.
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