Rutgers Board Uses Cops to Keep Some Protesters Out of Meeting

NEWARK, NJ—University police officers restricted some people from attending the February 7 meeting of one of the governing boards that oversees Rutgers University.

The Board of Governors' (BOG) public meeting, just one of six regular meetings scheduled this year, was held on the school's Newark campus at the Paul Robeson Campus Center.

But the way the room was configured, it could not hold all of those who wanted to attend and police kept a tight limit on the number of audience members.

"Rooms are selected based on the anticipated audience size," said university spokesperson Dory Devlin, citing that "fire codes" were the reason that some people were denied entry.

"Rutgers Public Safety is charged with ensuring that the space of the Board of Governors does not violate fire codes through exceeding maximum capacity and asked a small group of individuals to wait in the corridor for a short time until space became available in the room."

Devlin did not directly answer New Brunswick Today's question about how many people could legally occupy the room under the fire code, and instead emphasized that the meeting had an audience of "over 30 people."

Many of those people had come out to the meeting to voice concerns about the lack of contract negotiations between the Rutgers administration and the unions who represent its faculty.

The contracts will expire this summer, and union leaders say Rutgers is falling behind the usual negotiating schedule.

New Brunswick Today was able to capture the entire BOG meeting on video for those who were unable to access the meeting.

Our video shows the audience members seated in a space that occupied about 25% of the room, while the 19-member board and administration officials spread around a large table taking up much of the remaining space within the room.

David Hughes, a professor who leads of one of the school's faculty unions, the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), said the tight fit for the public was "by design."

"This university – which offers hundreds of classes with enrollments above a hundred students – should be able to find a room than accommodates 15 governors and everyone who wants to talk to them," Hughes told New Brunswick Today.

"They failed to find such a room by design, as a means of excluding workers and students. This is not surprising. The BOG meetings function as a charade of public consultation," said Hughes.

The meeting marked the only time that the BOG met on the Newark campus during the 2017-2018 school year.  Their sole meeting on the Camden campus took place in December.

The next time the board will meet is on the afternoon of April 10, when they will meet at 12pm in Winants Hall, located at 7 College Avenue in New Brunswick.

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Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.