Rutgers updates policy on protests; union fights back

Nick Muscavage

NEW BRUNSWICK – Rutgers University has recently updated and revised its guidelines in regards to protests, organizing and free speech — a move that the university’s union views as support for President Donald Trump’s agenda.

On April 6, the Board of Governors adopted a resolution revising the school’s policies and expanding the scope of what is deemed unacceptable when it comes to organizing.

The American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers, or AAUP-AFT, the union at Rutgers, is urging the board to reverse the policy change and rescind the additions to the student code.

“I write — on behalf of the 7,000 members of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty union — to oppose your recent restriction of political expression at Rutgers University,” David Hughes, the former president and current vice president of the union, wrote in a letter. “The BOG (Board of Governors) enacted these changes without the slightest discussion or consultation inside or beyond the university community. The resultant policy threatens to undermine political, religious, and other forms of speech on campus — and, thereby, to narrow the creativity and plurality of opinion characteristic of Rutgers.”

Under the new policy, groups may not: obstruct vehicular, bicycle, pedestrian, or other traffic; obstruct entrances or exits to buildings or driveways; interfere with educational activities inside or outside any building; harass passersby; interfere with or preclude a scheduled speaker from being heard; interfere with scheduled university ceremonies or events; damage property, including lawns, shrubs, or trees; or engage in any other activities that disrupt university business

“We are proud to work at a university festooned with banners celebrating Paul Robeson,” Hughes wrote. “We celebrate his legacy as an advocate of mass, disruptive dissent against inequality. Surely, you understand this too: you made Martin Luther King Day a university holiday. As a matter of principle, therefore, I urge you to rescind the policy revisions” at the June 15 board meeting.

According to union official Nat Bender, the policy was not reversed, nor was it discussed much at all at the meeting.

“Coming after five months of local and national protest against Trump’s election, the new policy seeks to gag dissent,” Hughes wrote. “Your actions, thereby, lend implicit support to Trump’s agenda.”

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Carimer Andujar, president of the student-led undocumented immigrant activist group Undocu Rutgers, said that the policy doesn’t make clear what sort of organized efforts will be banned and what types will be allowed.

“When I first read it, it was alarming,” she said of the policy change. “There’s this really big uncertainty.”

Andujar, who will be going into her senior year at Rutgers, is working toward having the revisions to the policy rescinded.

“Who is going to be subjected this policy?” she said. “What type of march are they going to let go, and what type of protest are they going to let go? What type of protest are they really going to bring down the hammer on?”

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