By Edwin Rodriguez
Not sure how many of you are aware but Rutgers University is going through major changes, and not only physical changes like the addition of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences but also internal ones.
Rutgers University-Newark is also getting its fair share of changes, the Life Science building might be extended, a new student dorm will be added, and recently there was a complete revamp of the computer lab in Dana Library.
The installment of the new chancellor, Nancy Cantor, has been followed by a strategic planning phase which will decide the direction of Rutgers University-Newark for the upcoming years. The process of Strategic Planning includes having town hall meetings and listening tours which allow staff, faculty and students to bring up their concerns to the committee that is oversighting our strategic process. Also included in this process is smaller meetings called charrettes which allow staff, faculty and students to come together once a week and express their views on the direction that Rutgers University-Newark should be taking.
The first charrette meetings started in the week of the 17th of February and in these meetings we have a question that guides the direction of our discussion. For the first week the question was “What Is Higher Education Being Called Upon To Do?”
Higher education is a broad term as it includes universities, colleges, trade schools, vocational schools, and so on. Without being said we of course assumed that were talking about universities and colleges because that is the setting everyone in that room has in common. Universities unlike vocational schools, are supposed to educate on the broader and specific aspects of a field, which allows the student to adapt to newer advances in the field they study in. While doing that students are also taught important subjects that might be out of their field like math, history, arts, technology, and so on. To get to the point, my answer is that higher education is being called upon to develop responsible citizens.
If you look at Rutgers University-Newark there is a mixture of fields that people can get into, you have the business school, arts and science, criminal justice and law, public administration, and so on. The great thing about this school is that you can be part of more than one field, you could be studying in the business school and also study psychology, computer science, or political science.
This allows students who want to have a career in one field to also study another field that they might be interested in but are not sure if they would want to base their life around it. While this is a plus of Rutgers University-Newark, it is something that has been slowly been taken away from us. There are requirements that force students to take classes like history and literature but there needs to be more classes available in the humanities which would make a students want to take a class instead of feeling like they are forced to take it.
Without getting any more specific to Rutgers University-Newark let me answer this question in a broader term. Higher education is being called upon to develop responsible citizens who will go out into the world and make sure that there is progress our society. Higher education in terms of public schools like Rutgers, have a responsibility to make sure that they are playing a part not only in their local communities but in the world.
While it is important that schools train people to be on the work force, that should not be the biggest responsibility, our responsibility as a servant to our community to make sure the future of humanity is lead by individuals who find passion in improving society. We have to stop educating people in one field and throwing them out in the world. They might be the best at what they do but it does not help society if they are good at their field but are doing it for all the wrong reasons. We need to teach students history, to make sure that society is not going to make the same mistakes.
We need to teach students arts, to make sure that they can approach society’s problem in a more abstract way. We need to teach them political science, to make sure that they are being active and responsible citizens. Most of all we need to teach them that we have to take responsibility as students and as citizens of this world to actually make sure that society is what we make of it. No one else is going to stand and fight for your future unless you do it yourself.