By Nancy Elias
On Monday, March 10, 2014 Rutgers-Newark chancellor Nancy Cantor, as part of her “listening tour,” held an hour long town hall meeting aimed at the students in the Rutgers –Newark community. Part of the university-wide strategic planning process, students were able in this hour to voice their concerns about what they want to see done in the university in the short term as well as how they envision the university down the line.
Opening up the session, Dean Gerald Massenburg posed the question, “How can Rutgers become a greater institution?”
Students sat in front of a panel consisting of Nancy Cantor, Todd Clear, Jyl Josephson, and other members of the strategic planning committee, and within minutes of the town hall meeting’s beginning, student hands shot up as they were ready and eager to voice their concerns.
The first to speak was Daniel Rosario, finance and economics major at Rutgers-Newark. “Newark is changing and growing, and we are in the heart of it all. Instead of having Columbia University working in Newark, it should be us, Rutgers-Newark, stepping in and making a difference. We are not just a degree factory,” Rosario said.
Many students voiced their concerns about the university’s lack of environmental consciousness and the university’s role in the community at large. A few voiced that they would be happy to see the university place solar panels on the ideal, flat roofs of many buildings and work with the city of Newark to make a real, measurable difference in the community.
Luis De Paz, junior and political science student said, “I’m a commuter student and I spend a lot of my time here. Rutgers is my second home and I would like to work together to make it really feel like our second home and take care of things like the couches which are falling apart and the carpets which are stained.”
Many students also voiced that they would like to see healthier, more affordable places to eat on campus besides a small salad bar as well as a better way to deal with parking, especially given the case that students pay for parking permits but are not guaranteed parking.
Dina Sayedahmed, political science and history major, expressed that “languages are not part of the NCAS core requirements, when they should be. The Dana Library’s third floor is empty, and we don’t have many food options, including any halal or kosher food options for the nation’s most diverse campus.”
Kiera McBride, junior and marketing major, took part in the university’s charrette groups, which as a part of the strategic planning process formed small concentrated groups of volunteers that answered specific questions about the university and the vision for the campus.
“In the charrette meetings that were being held, we were asked, ‘what is public education called to do?’ As a business student, I know we are taking the same courses as students in New Brunswick, but professors are ‘dumbing’ down the courses. How are we supposed to compete with the ivy leagues if we are not even expected to compete with our campus?” said McBride.
Senior Sasha Youssef expressed that “We are behind technology-wise. We use paper flyers and mass email to communicate when we should have an app or something that keeps us in touch efficiently. We also lack a culture or pride here at Rutgers-Newark. There’s no other campus I would rather be on but maybe if sweatshirts were cheaper we would wear them around!”
Although Cantor’s listening tour directed at the student body was an hour long, had the session lasted longer, more students would have voiced concerns for as passionate leaders, each student brought a different perspective to the table, fighting for the things that will help the students navigate the university with more ease, and by extension propel the university to the highest academic standing.
“We keep saying it’s our time, but students and administration need to capitalize on it,” Youssef said.