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On Monday, newly sworn in Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) signed an executive order calling for a full-scale audit of NJ Transit. The system is seen by many as failing and was one of the hot-button issues of November’s gubernatorial race, especially after Hoboken’s rail accident in 2016. From personnel to infrastructure, NJ Transit is in need of a serious revamping, and Murphy is right about that. At parts of the train station in Summit, for example, the concrete was found to be crumbling. But while a revolution is just what this transit system needs, change at the scale in question requires a large amount of one scarce and particular thing — money.
A significant burden to the students of Rutgers—New Brunswick is the transportation system. While students become increasingly frustrated with the buses, the University is seemingly frantically looking for ways to make them run more smoothly and efficiently. New bus lanes and bike lanes were implemented on College Avenue in the summer, but they are simply not enough to solve the problem. One of the main ideas behind this initiative with synchronous lecture halls is that by offering classes of this sort, the University will be able to cut out a good portion of student travel and hopefully alleviate traffic. So far the University has taken 10 large lecture courses and made them into synchronous lecture hall courses with the hope of reducing the number of students who need to take the bus. So for example — in a class of 300, rather than possibly more than 150 students traveling on the buses there may now only be 50 traveling for that class. This is an important goal because, in reality, the whole point of attending Rutgers is to go to class and learn. Without students actually being able to get to class efficiently, this is impossible. With that said, it is good to see the University coming up with innovative ways to solve the bus crisis.
The overall number of reported rapes and sexual assaults at New Jersey’s four-year institutions of higher education has risen in recent years. The number of rapes reported increased a relatively hefty 24 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to NJ Advance Media. Additionally, cases of unwanted fondling and dating violence rose 46 percent and 13 percent respectively. At Rutgers—New Brunswick, though, such reports have actually slightly decreased.
EDUCATION AND ADVOCACY
All Americans technically have the ability to take hold of the American Dream, but it is no secret that some are in a better position to do so than others. Juggling school, work and resume boosters with the aim of future success can be a struggle, especially given the cost of attaining a degree in this day and age, and the University knows this. This is why effective Jan. 1, the Rutgers administration raised the minimum wage for student workers from $8.44 to $11 an hour — an approximately 30 percent increase. University President Robert L. Barchi said in an email sent out before winter break that he has, “made it a goal to put as much of Rutgers’ revenues back into the academic mission as possible, and financial assistance in all forms for students is at the top of my list.” Rutgers has more than 13,000 student workers, many of whom have taken out student loans to pay for school on top of their other miscellaneous expenses, such as food, fuel for their cars and rent. “Please know that we will always be seeking new ways to support you on your journey toward a Rutgers degree," Barchi said. As students, knowing that the University administration has our back is important and comforting.
At the end of his term, former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) had a 15-percent approval rating — the worst in New Jersey gubernatorial history. Yesterday, Governor Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) was sworn into office as the state’s 56th governor, which to many has come as a breath of fresh air. While the reasoning behind Christie’s atrocious ratings is probably a combination of multiple different things, a significant factor was likely his close affiliation with President Donald J. Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. While the Republican party still has dominant representation with all three branches of the federal government, we can see that after the Democratic wins here in New Jersey as well as in Virginia and Alabama, other state and local governments may follow suit in their midterm elections.
The relatively recent ousting of Harvey Weinstein as a sexual abuser has been followed by an incredible movement, bringing up a new and important conversation about sexual harassment in the United States. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, it seems that sexual misconduct may be just as prevalent in academic settings as it is in every other field. More than 10 cases of Rutgers professors and administrators sexually harassing, assaulting or coercing students have been reported to an anonymous Google Spreadsheet, which aims to address the issue of sexual harassment in academia head-on and give victims a comfortable way to report their experiences anonymously. The spreadsheet lays out the circumstances of approximately 2,000 different instances of sexual misconduct on college campuses across the country.
Last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court — by the Trump administration’s request — ordered the lifting of an injunction by a federal appeals court, which was previously preventing the third version of the “travel ban” executive order from going into full effect.
Last Wednesday, another round of white nationalistic flyers was found on George Street. The flyers were directed at white Americans and urged them to fulfill their "civic duty" by reporting all "illegal aliens" to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. While the suggestion to report people for being in this country illegally is in itself not necessarily racist, the last statement on the flyers read, “AMERICA IS A WHITE NATION,” and on the bottom left corner "bloodandsoil.org" was printed, which is a website for an organization called Patriot Front that advocates for today’s white nationalist movement. For context, white supremacists that rallied at the University of Virginia in August chanted the phrase, “blood and soil,” among other things, such as “Jews will not replace us.” Thus there is a clear connection between the group that posted these flyers here at Rutgers and those who took part in the alt-Right rally in Charlottesville. With that said, it is clear that these flyers were not only posted with the aim of urging Americans to do their civic duty but to promote the same unsettling voice of racism here at Rutgers that we saw on the campus of the University of Virginia.
After the leaking of the Paradise Papers last month, the Rutgers community was informed that in order to avoid paying domestic taxes on its endowment money, the University was utilizing an offshore “blocker” firm — EnCap Energy Capital Fund IX-C, that invests in oil and gas companies.
On May 4 of last year, a man severely beat and sexually assaulted a female Rutgers student after dragging her to a less visible area. When a group of people intervened in the heinous act, the perpetrator began to run, warning them that if they chased him, he would shoot them. On Dec. 4, that man, Michael P. Knight, admitted to the crime and was convicted of kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault. The original charges additionally included aggravated assault, aggravated sexual contact, making terroristic threats and endangering the injured victim. He will spend 22 years in prison. This incident sounds like something plucked straight from a horror film, but it happened in an area commonly occupied by students — Seminary Place, a direct offshoot of College Avenue next to Voorhees Mall.
Net neutrality, the idea that all content on the internet should be equally accessible to all people and that Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) — which are few in number — should not be allowed to offer people more access at a higher speed based on how much they pay, has been a trending topic lately. This is because on Dec. 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on whether to curtail the net neutrality rules currently in place. Ajit Pai, the FCC’s chairman, is strongly against thorough rules regarding net neutrality, and if he succeeds in lifting the current regulations, there could be serious consequences for students.
In recent weeks, flyers have been pasted to the walls of buildings at Rutgers and other universities across the country that state the phrase, “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE.” These flyers appeared after a post on 4chan encouraged people with aligning views to go out on the night of Halloween and put up the flyers with the aim of provoking backlash from the “Leftist media.” In the end, the goal was to make it appear as if the media discriminates against white people to the point where they needed to defend themselves. By doing this, they assumed that people who are centrist politically would associate this assumed ideology of hatred toward white people with the Left, and therefore turn on them. All in all, it was a scheme conceived by internet trolls to rally support for far-Right activism.
As of right now, it looks as if the Rutgers football team is stuck in an unfortunate paradox. Despite being on a clear trajectory upward, the Scarlet Knights have not yet managed to garner a significant fan base, and this is likely contributing to the rut that they are in.
Thanksgiving in the United States has become a sort of deeply ingrained culture with specific symbols, images and memories that enter our minds as soon as we hear the word. Such include Native Americans, pilgrims and turkey. While these things are accurate to the holiday in the sense that there is some perceived connection between them and Thanksgiving, the historical accuracy of these associations is not necessarily acknowledged. In fact, there are multiple holidays that lack historical accuracy, including Christmas, and governments pick and choose specific aspects of them to exploit. According to plimoth.org, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt lengthened the Christmas shopping season by declaring Thanksgiving for the next-to-the-last Thursday in November during his time in office, and in 1941 Congress permanently established the holiday as the fourth Thursday in the month. The symbols that have come to be associated with Thanksgiving are taught to people in school from a young age, and the truth behind the unfortunate history of the holiday is often euphemized or ignored.
Universities have an incredible capacity to promote intellectual progress through research and discussion, which is why freedom of speech, as well as thought, are so important on college campuses. A University that seeks to promote academic freedom must be careful when making decisions about the extent of the faculty’s right to free speech and their personal backgrounds, as censoring, banning or forbidding specific ideologies can lead us down a perilous road.
STRIDES FOR YOUNG STUDENTS
For the past two years, Rutgers has offered prospective students the ability to apply through the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success — a service that seeks to streamline the college application process, making it easier for high school students, especially those from low-income school districts, to apply. The Coalition currently has 130 member schools, including all of the Ivy Leagues. The first year Rutgers was involved, they saw 800 applications through the Coalition. This year, they saw 3,500. College applications, no matter the form, are almost always confusing, and without guidance, it can be impossible for high school students to navigate and figure them out.