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Rutgers University Senate: Who, why, what, huh?

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You probably didn't even know it existed, did you? Until they took a swing at athletics.

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The Rutgers University Senate.  Never knew, did you?

The other day, the Senate passed a resolution that said Rutgers should not do any capital construction for athletics until the University's subsidy to Athletics was eliminated.  And you said, "Who or what the **** is the University Senate?"  I'm here to elucidate.

According to the Rutgers website, the Senate is:

a university-wide deliberative body consisting of representatives of Rutgers faculty, students, staff, administrators, and alumni. The Senate meets eight or nine times during the academic year to consider matters of general University interest, and to make recommendations to the University administration on those matters.

Pretty generic stuff.  It goes on to say:

The Senate advises on areas including:
  • Budget priorites, allocations, and general planning;
  • Special affiliations and programs;
  • Establishment or dissolution of colleges, schools, divisions, institutes and other educational units;
  • Regulations affecting students and faculty, such as those concerning academic freedom, equal opportunities, and personnel practices and procedures as they affect the academic mission of Rutgers; and
  • Such changes in educational and research policy as are covered in University Regulations.

That first item probably puts them in a position to recommend what they did.  But let's keep in mind, it is a recommendation.  And that's fine.  There should be discussion and thoughtful dialogue.  And that's a key component: thoughtful dialogue.  But there are some in the Senate who may not be looking for that.  In a follow up piece, Keith Sargeant quoted a Senator, asking for anonymity (surprise!), as saying:

"I think they blow it off at their peril."

"...blow it off at their peril." Well, that certainly sounds reasonable and rational.  To be fair - and I try to be - the unnamed Senator continued by saying:

"If they're smart, they'll open a dialogue. If you have people expressing well-documented and serious concerns, you start talking with them. You don't just shut them out."

And to me, that seems to be the real issue here.  Faculty and, it seems especially, students aren't happy with the University President's communication with them.  It motivated the creation of a student group, Where RU Barchi.  And with the faculty, it also extends back to his handling of the Mike Rice controversy to issues of communication and transparency with faculty to budget and salary matters.  Not that it should be the end all to a leader, but Bob Barchi isn't the most popular guy in New Brunswick.

There are those in the Senate who see this as a much more complex issue that needs to be addressed.  Alumni Senator Robert Barracco said:

"It doesn't surprise me that this did pass,'' Barraco told NJ Advance Media afterwards. "I know that there has been a lot of frustration on campus for quite a while. But I do feel that athletics spending is a complex issue, and I do feel that maybe this oversimplified it. [emphasis added]  I'm not suggesting that (the report was) wrong. I am just suggesting that there seemed to be an oversimplification and would've liked to have seen the advisory committee they proposed in the body of it have a chance to work.''

So, where are we? Well, once again we await the comments and response from the University President.  It seems that Robert Barchi is at once a part of the problem and a part - perhaps a big part - of the solution.