by Joy Taylor
RUTGERS UNIVERSITY 11/10/15 4:08 P.M — Yesterday Rutgers University celebrated 250 years of Revolutionary on the lawn of Old Queens as students for Shared Governance Coalition surprised the audience as they protested for a more revolutionary university.
The mood quickly changed as students came out with signs and tape over their mouths taking the attention away from Rutgers University’s birthday gift that now sits on the lawn. As they took the stage they shouted “Equal Representation For All People!” Their signs displayed their thoughts for an ideal revolutionary university. The students individually took center stage and touched on topics that the university has silenced and got their points across as people gathered around and chanted with them.
Monica Torres, a Latino and Asian student at Rutgers University, states the low percentages of minorities in at the university, and asks “Where Is The Representation?” Rutgers University, known for its diversity, is not following up when it comes to representation of all students attending the university. The students explain how learning about culture in the classroom conflicts academic scheduling making it less encouraged and accessible to the students. A protester shouted “I want the university to be a safe place for all African Americans and people of color!”
Students also used their voices to defend their professors who barely acquire a living wage while “Rutgers University accumulated a $36 million deficit, paid for with discretionary funds, which means tuition!” the group shouts. They speak for the equality of students and professors who make up the university. The diversified group took a stance on issues they felt needed to be expressed to the public and recognized across the university. The crowd shouted with them, “The power of the people can never be defeated!”
The group also held signs that read, “DIVEST!” referring to the university’s investments with oil companies. Students are concerned and bothered with the university’s decision to support companies that are damaging to the environment. Josephine Parades, a member of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign at RU, was at the event protesting for a change. The campaign is trying to push the board of trustees to divest in oil companies and reinvest in a clean energy solution. “Climate change is real, and evidence shows us green energy is the solution!” she said. She feels that the university is ignoring this change and feeding global warming.
Monday evening, Chancellor Edwards attempted to quell the protesters by sending out the following email in “support” of the issues mentioned by the protesters:
Rutgers University begins today the yearlong celebrations that will culminate next year in the 250th anniversary of the University’s founding in 1766 in New Brunswick. Throughout the next twelve months, special events and programs will examine and celebrate the University’s revolutionary pursuit of teaching, research and service.
As some in the Rutgers community have pointed out in recent weeks, we must acknowledge that our history also includes some facts that we have ignored for too long, such as that our campus is built on land taken from the Lenni-Lenape and that a number of our founders and early benefactors were slave holders. Given our history as a colonial college, these are facts not unique to Rutgers, but it is time that we begin to recognize the role that disadvantaged populations such as African Americans and Native tribes played in the University’s development.
I am therefore announcing the formation of a committee to study enslaved and disenfranchised populations in Rutgers history. This committee will be charged with examining the role that the people of these disadvantaged groups played in the founding and development of Rutgers University, and with making recommendations to me on how the University can best acknowledge their influence on our history. The committee will be composed of faculty, staff and student members.
The committee may, for example, recommend the installation of historical markers to commemorate the contributions of Native Americans and African Americans, as well as the establishment of symposia, lectures, talks, and teach-ins to address the historical context.
Wrestling with such issues in our history is not unique to Rutgers. Brown University, for instance, founded just two years before Rutgers, formed a similar committee which was charged by its then-President, Ruth Simmons to “examine the University’s historical entanglement with slavery and the slave trade and report our findings openly and truthfully.” The report the Brown committee issued was extensive and honest and I will ask our committee for the same vigorous pursuit of the truth.
In my 11 years at Rutgers-New Brunswick, I have become a fierce supporter and champion of this incredible institution; I am proud of it like none other. But to truly praise Rutgers, we must honestly know it; and to do that, we must gain a fuller understanding of its early history. I look forward to reading the committee’s report and recommendations.
Rutgers students question it’s sincerity.
The Rutgers revolutionary celebration has raised many questions about what a revolutionary university looks like, and tonight students came out and painted that picture. Has the climate changed at the university or is this university still based on the principles it was founded on 250 years ago?
Pictures courtesy of Joy Taylor