Rutgers community speaks at Board of Governors meeting
The Board of Governors held a meeting on Dec. 17 and various members of the Rutgers community attended to discuss different issues.
University President Robert L. Barchi opened the meeting by discussing recent success within the Athletics Department and new data on high test scores within the Honors College.
He also provided an update on the President’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience, which was formed in September. The organization has finished 1 of 3 reports, which detailed possible proposals the University can implement to begin working toward carbon neutrality.
“I will be meeting with the committee on Thursday to go through the details of it. You know I’m highly supportive of this action, and I’m going to be working with them to make sure that we join that group of universities that’s committed to carbon neutrality and committed to resiliency,” Barchi said.
Town hall events are being planned for the Rutgers community to give its input to the Task Force and more details about its proposals will be revealed next semester, Barchi said.
The Board of Governors passed a resolution to approve the first phase of a project to modernize the New Jersey Medical School’s Medical Science Building in Newark. The first part of the project will cost approximately $14 million and improve elevators, fire detectors and other alarm systems.
The resolutions passed also included minor clarifications in the University Code of Student Conduct, an updated list of resources in the Student Policy Prohibiting Sexual Harassment, Sexual Violence, Relationship Violence, Stalking and Related Misconduct as well as revisions to the guidelines in the Investment Policy.
Many of the speakers at the meeting included postdoctoral researchers, who distributed flyers to advocate for a contract that contains a minimum salary of $60,000 a year as well as improved benefits. Todd Vachon, a postdoctoral associate in the School of Management and Labor Relations, spoke to the Board of Governors about the current contract negotiations which have been ongoing since July.
“Despite our best efforts to negotiate a fair agreement for ourselves through the collective bargaining process, the University is dragging its feet, scheduling infrequent bargaining sessions, often arriving unprepared, and, in one instance, canceling a scheduled bargaining session in order to hold an emergency meeting in which it was decided to shell out $32 million for a football coach,” Vachon said.
Anne Kirkner, a postdoctoral associate in the School of Social Work, said researchers face many financial challenges when beginning their careers, including student loan debt, child care expenses, high cost of living and other bills. She also said the healthcare benefits for postdoctoral employees are unfair, in part because they take two months to kick in.
“I weathered two months as an uninsured person, and made sure to always drive the speed limit, and always walk carefully down the stairs in my apartment building, because I knew that medical bill would cripple me,” Kirkner said.
Members of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) also attended the meeting and passed out flyers to air their grievances with the CourseAtlas automated scheduling software, also referred to as Infosilem. The system does not take student or faculty preferences into account, including research commitments, child care or other jobs, according to the flyer.
Robert Scott, associate professor and undergraduate program director in the Department of Anthropology, said he does not think CourseAtlas should be implemented at this time. Scott cited the University’s claim that the system will help minimize the amount of time students spend riding the buses. He said student complaints about the buses should be addressed, but by something other than CourseAtlas.
“We’ve seen no evidence that it will (fix the bus issue) because there’s no simulation of the software that shows that it is going to somehow magically sort students around so that they will ride the bus less,” Scott said. “What I see is the University is rushing to adopt a system that is going to cause great anxiety for students and faculty, and it’s not solving the issue it’s supposed to.”
James Boyle, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and a member of the Central Jersey Climate Coalition, the Endowment Justice Collective and Students for Justice in Palestine, came to the meeting to discuss the University’s endowment. He said climate change is linked to both the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex, which puts human lives at risk.
He cited the University’s investment in TC Energy, which runs the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as corporations involved in the Israeli military, which he said contributes to the displacement and death of Palestinians.
“The kindling for these interlinked infernos is not just the corporate and state interests that are perpetuating this war on the planet and human life. It’s the capital that’s funding this war, and Rutgers is currently investing in some of the most immoral and unethical corporations on this planet,” Boyle said.
Barchi responded and said the University established a divestment policy in June 2015 and students with requests for divestment can find out more about how to address these issues online.
David Hughes, professor in the Department of Anthropology and treasurer of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, addressed the University’s policies on climate change and athletics. He said he timed Barchi’s remarks at the beginning of the meeting and questioned why he devoted an equal amount of time to athletics and climate change.
“(Approximately) 70,000 students are wondering, can they continue to live in New Jersey, can they continue to enjoy a bright future,” Hughes said. “Then we have 600 students ... doing an extracurricular activity for four years, and you devote equal time. This board needs to think a lot harder about climate change.”
Hughes also said football has proven to cause brain damage and questioned why the University spends so much money on a program that could potentially injure students. He asked the members of the Board of Governors if they would want their children to play football, and no one raised their hand. He then addressed Barchi specifically due to his background in neuroscience.
“Give us your opinion as a scholar, as a doctor,” Hughes said. “For the media and for the record, tell us, is it safe to play tackle football in this day?”
Barchi did not respond to this question, and Hughes asked Barchi if he is afraid to answer.
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