NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On June 27, Governor Chris Christie nominated Keith T. Banks, the head of a subsidiary of Bank of America, to be a public member of the Rutgers Board of Governors (BoG).
The powerful 15-member board can hire and fire the University President, set the tuition and fees for tens of thousands of students, and make many other key decisions affecting students, staff, and faculty at the state school.
Banks earned his bachelor's degree in economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Rutgers University as well as his MBA degree in finance from Columbia Business School. He currently lives in Essex Fells and is a member of the board of overseers for the Rutgers University Foundation.
Since 2008, he has served as President of "U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management," which had been bought by Bank of America one year earlier.
If approved by the New Jersey Senate, Banks would replace board member Candace L. Straight, a Bloomfield resident who is listed as a"Private Investor, Director and Investment Banking Consultant" on the Rutgers BoG website.
Straight remains on the BoG as a "holdover" appointment until Banks' nomination is approved.
Neither Christie's office nor Banks wanted to comment on the nomination, which was submitted to the Senate Judiciary committee on June 27. The committee has not yet scheduled an interview with Banks.
Head of Global Wealth and Investment Management Media Relations at Bank of America Susan McCabe said Banks "prefers not to comment at this time since it is still a nomination."
"Perhaps we can talk at another time as things move along," she added.
Christie's office provided a redacted copy of Banks' resume, but declined to comment further.
"I have to leave it at the resume, which should answer some of your questions," said Christie spokesperson Brian Murray. "This is generally how we deal with nominations proceeding through the process."
The nomination comes at a time where tensions between students and Rutgers University's governing boards are running high.
“Overall we’re dismayed with Gov. Christie’s decision to not nominate a student even though Banks is qualified,” said Justin Schulberg, president of Rutgers University Student Assembly. “All Gov. Christie has done is say that he doesn’t care about the voice of the student body.”
Schulberg is one of several student leaders pushing for students to have a voting representative on the board. Rutgers has pushed back by saying that the Governor is free to appoint a student if he wants under the current setup.
Currently, the 67,000 students of Rutgers have one non-voting member on the BoG.
At the BoG's July 20 meeting, a student activist was put in a headlock by a Rutgers University staff member shortly after the board voted to go into a closed-door "executive session." After the altercation, the board voted to impose a 1.7% increase in tuition that the school had not publicized.
The activist, Patrick Gibson, is part of a coalition that had been advocating for a tuition decrease. He was attempting to sift through the board's documents relating to the tuition increase topic, picking up a binder that one board member had left in the meeting room.
Schulberg, a senior, said Gibson was wrong for attempting to go through "confidential documents" but the student body deserves to be kept in the loop.
“Pat obviously shouldn’t have been going through confidential documents, but he wasn’t given the transparency we all deserve,” Schulberg said.
Going forward, Schulberg says RUSA will be advocating for student voting representation on the BoG through bill A-2134, which has been referred to the NJ Assembly Higher Education Committee.
The bill states that for the first election held for student representatives, one student will be elected for a one-year term as a full voting member, and one student will be elected for two years, but will serve as an alternate member during the first year and as a voting member during the second year.
"The bill has never made it out of committee, which is appalling,” Schulberg said. “The last time the bill was mentioned was 4 years ago.”
Several other Big 10 universities are also advocating for a Rutgers student to have a vote on the board of governors, according to Schulberg.
"Ohio State University and Indiana both had SGA members share our petition on Facebook," he said.
The BoG is not scheduled to meet again until October 7, when the meeting will be held at the school's Camden campus.