NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The Rutgers student government announced that Rutgers President Robert “Bob” Barchi would come to speak at an upcoming student government meeting at 7pm on November 20.
Known as the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA), the organization hosts twice monthly general assembly meetings, where it seeks to discuss and advocate on student issues.
The student organization has brought in various other guest speakers, including New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill, and had originally inteded for Congressman Frank Pallone to speak at an upcoming meeting.
However, Pallone abruptly canceled the meeting just a week before elections. Instead, he attended a fundraiser for the Mayor of Highland Park Gayle Brill Mittler, according to an advertisement for the event.
Barchi had appeared at RUSA meetings once early in the Spring 2014 semester, and once in February, 2013.
The last time Robert Barchi spoke at a Rutgers student government meeting was in February.
At the 2013 meeting, many left that meeting feeling as if Barchi did not thoroughly address student issues. The President introduced a slide-show on the strategic plan, the University’s response to Hurricane Sandy, the Rutgers-UMDNJ merger, and the entrance into the Big Ten Athletic Conference.
Those wishing to ask a question were required to register via a sign-up sheet beforehand. However, Barchi’s handlers urged him to finish up and leave the meeting before 9 pm, resulting in many activists and students not having their questions and issues heard.
Some of these groups present at that meeting included the Rutgers University Tuition Equality Coalition and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
“Here’s a man whose an expert at stalling, an expert at filibustering,” NORML member Joel Salvino told The Daily Targum.
Another student, Rutgers-Newark junior Giancarlo Tello, told the student-run newspaper that “I think we figured out he’s going to be very much a politician about these issues.”
In the following months, Barchi would host several town halls across the Rutgers campuses.
By then, his presidency was marred by the Mike Rice scandal, which cost the school’s head men’s basketball coach and athletic director their jobs, and left some calling for the President’s ouster.
At the same time, some students were critical of the Strategic Plan’s designation of the Newark campus as a place of diversity. Several faculty and staff were critical of the lack of benefits for part-time lecturers.
Students were, however, supportive of Barchi for his on advocating for immigrant students and their efforts to access higher education financial assistance.
However, President Barchi had remained relatively quiet and away from the public eye since then, coming out for the annual State of the University Address in September.
As a result, Barchi has been on on the receiving end of heavy criticism from students, faculty and staff at the University. Many of them were disheartened and frustrated with the sense of disconnection that they felt between the Rutgers president.
In recent months, students launched the group “Where RU Barchi?,” a group pushing for Barchi to meet with student activists and address their concerns.
As we reported, on October 31, the student-group, along with local unions such as “Reclaim Rutgers,” staged a mock funeral procession.
Two cardboard coffins were laid out in front of the Rutgers Student Center, one with the wording “RIP Fair Salaries”, and the other reading “RIP Student Voices.” Other signs boasted similar messages.
The procession then headed down College Avenue to the Old Queens building, where protestors met head-on with police and security guards.
Several weeks before that in mid-October, the Rutgers-student group United Against Sweatshops (USAS), held a sit-in at the Old Queens building. Many students involved in USAS were also part of Where RU Barchi?.
While the President did touch upon the rising cost of tuition, he came short of taking a stance on tuition assistance for undocumented immigrants.
A satirical Facebook page about the university has taken a comedic approach to concerns over the lack of connection between Barchi and the Rutgers student body.
Known as “rutger colege,” the page garners just over a thousand likes, and features grammatically incorrect posts rife with spelling errors, related to current events within the university.
“Rutger colege” has previously been critical of Barchi. In one case, the page advertised the President’s office hours of “0 am to 0 pm”.
Then, in a post discussing ideas for Halloween costumes, “rutger colege” said that students could dress up as President Barchi.
However, the page went on to elaborate that this would be difficult, given that “no one actually knows what Robert Bob Barchi looks like since he is never on campus to meet with students and professors.”
Editor’s Note: Joel Salvino is a senior reporter for New Brunswick Today.
Award-winning, multimedia journalist with experience in digital first and print-media. Daniel has covered local, state and regional issues, and utilized photography, social media and has written in-depth articles to produce high-quality work.