NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Dr. Felicia E. McGinty recently stepped into a critical role at Rutgers University and she is already working to get to know the student body.
McGinty assumed the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs position on August 1, after serving in similar roles for more than 20 years at UC-Santa Cruz, Penn State University, and the University of Maryland.
Unlike President Robert Barchi, who took several months to agree to publicly meet with student leaders, McGinty was quick to approach the student government. Barchi only did so after facing criticism that he was not interested in communicating with students, or incorporating their concerns into his agenda.
At Thursday night’s Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) meeting, McGinty addressed a crowd of roughly 75 students with confidence and a smile.
McGinty said it was important for her to get to know the University before she makes any suggestions on how to improve it. Since her arrival, McGinty has toured the five Rutgers-New Brunswick campuses to assess the facilities available to students.
Students were excited to hear that she plans to ride the Rutgers buses with members of RUSA during peak usage hours, to better undertsand transportation issues. In the evening, buses often overflow with students, making many late for class.
“You are my constituency, you are the group I represent,” she told the crowd. As a student affairs professional, she explained how she always tries to view things from a "student level." She noted that Rutgers' size poses a challenge to making sure all students feel included.
McGinty said she was concerned with improving information technology at Rutgers, admitting students may feel alienated by the many automated systems that can make finding essential information a challenge.
She said she hopes to improve the telephone systems and academic websites such as "webreg," the university's online class registration system.
McGinty proposed building a new student center designed to provide a central space for many student organizations on campus and their events.
"We don’t have the facilities that we need to support students in doing the programming and the things they want and need to do.”
As we reported last month, the annual involvement fair was wildly overcrowded after it was re-located indoors. The proposed new building would likely include a larger multi-purpose space for student events and organizations.
Later this year, McGinty's office will move to the Rutgers Student Center on College Ave. where she plans to hold open office hours for students, as she currently does in Room 101 of the Old Queens administration building, every Friday from 10am to 12pm.
McGinty also fielded questions from the student representatives, acknowledging a variety of issues on campus. First she addressed the need for better facilities for the cultural councils. Many of the councils lack the facilities and staff they need to properly run.
First-year student Alex Uematsu asked McGinty about her views on shared governance, which would give students voting positions within the University administration. Although she did not explicitly discuss voting rights, she replied that shared governance was very important, and said students were the stakeholders she finds “most important to include at the table.”
Rutgers Business Governing Council President Sterling Johnson asked how Rutgers should carry on now that they are members of the Big Ten athletic conference. McGinty said in order to compete with other members of the Big Ten, Rutgers should aspire to develop facilities that are as new and versatile as their own.
Third-year students Jamila White and Francine Glaser expressed concerns about Douglass campus being ignored, despite a boom of development on other campuses.
McGinty replied that she was unaware of any current building plans for Douglass, but agreed that it should be the place where improvements occur next. She also said that the she would help ensure Douglass Residential College receives the improvements it needs.
McGinty concluded that she hopes to be visible and available to all students throughout her tenure at Rutgers.
After the event, some students expressed caution towards the new administrator, citing that they would need to wait to see the fruits of her work before they put their faith behind her.