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On Jan. 29, University President Robert L. Barchi sent an email to the student body reminding it of the approaching date of termination for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which as of right now is March 5, 2018. DACA is meant to protect young, undocumented students brought to this country at a young age from deportation and allow them to continue their education.
Following a statement by University President Robert L. Barchi, at the start of January the minimum wage on campus increased to $11 an hour. Despite that fact, the fight continues on for higher wages. Yesterday, a banner could be seen hanging from the roof above the Brower Commons steps that advocated for a rise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. A similar banner was seen hanging in the same spot approximately two months ago with a similar statement. In both cases, someone presumably broke onto the roof of the dining hall or Stonier Hall and proceeded to hang the banner without the University’s permission. Additionally, the banner was held up by loose cinder blocks, as seen in photographs of the incident — a blatant safety hazard.
The attempted invalidation of news sources, even the most prestigious and well-respected of them, has become rampant in this country despite the fact that the press is one of our nation’s most important institutions. The press is seen by many as the “fourth branch” of the government, with an unparalleled ability to check for wrongdoings and hold officials accountable for their actions. This is part of the reason blatant attacks on the media which aim for its collapse are somewhat puzzling, especially when these attacks come from advocates for a less powerful central government.
RU READY FOR A JOB?
As the opioid crisis becomes increasingly deadly, former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) has made it his mission to fight back against the de-facto plague here in New Jersey. For Christie the crisis is one that hits home, as a friend of his was addicted to opioids and was ultimately killed by them in an overdose. Christie recently announced that New Jersey universities, including Rutgers, will receive $5 million to help combat the issue on college campuses. The grant was decided upon before Christie left office, and is meant to go towards funding education and rehabilitation with regard to drug addiction in young people — a group that badly needs it. In 2016, 40 percent of all treatment admissions reported to New Jersey’s Substance Abuse Monitoring System was comprised of people between the ages of 18 and 29.
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.