The Issues that Matter at Rutgers University
By Thom Prewett
Unigo Campus Representative at Rutgers University
Oct. 24, 2008
While Rutgers may not be the most politically heated or outspoken university in the United States, there are still a number of political issues that are significant to the school’s students. These are the types of general issues that have such a wide, national reach, and so they cannot be ignored by a large, American university like Rutgers.
The economic crisis is affecting Americans nationwide, and the student body at Rutgers is no exception. As “The State University of New Jersey”, Rutgers University is part of the public sector and is therefore directly impacted by the current economic crisis. “The economic crisis is an extremely relevant issue to Rutgers,” explained Norman Markowitz, a Rutgers history professor of over 35 years. “The economic crisis can and will affect everything from cutbacks to student parking fees. Tuition will increase with fewer services and of course, our faculty is emotionally devastated.” Markowitz continued by explaining his endorsement for president, “This can get much worse for us unless specific policies are introduced and Obama is the only one talking about these types of specific issues and policies.”
However, the economy is not the only issue on hand at Rutgers—the issue regarding new youth voters is obviously relevant. At Rutgers, there are no polling stations for Rutgers students to place their presidential votes on campus. Although there is a polling station not too far away off campus, some students still feel this hinders youth participation within the election. “I think the university needs to have one on campus at an accessible place especially for the younger students who are not familiar with the campus or outside the campus,” said Kelly Contessa, a senior history major. “Accessibility to a voting booth should be a main priority to the university especially when trying to motivate the younger generations to rock the vote.”
Yet not all students share this view. Some think that the lack of a polling station on-campus should not affect the student turnout. “There have been a lot of efforts on campus to actually get students to register to vote. That was great because you don't have to deal with mailing or dropping off anything yourself. It takes about five minutes of your time to fill out a registration form and then be on your way,” explained Melissa Greenwald, a senior journalism and marketing double major. “If we receive the polling location info I don't think that not having a place to vote directly on campus is really going to affect the youth vote. Those that really want to vote and are knowledgeable about the election will definitely find a way to get theirs in.”
In some cases, students themselves are doing what they can to increase voter turnout. Some students, like Christine DeVito, a sophomore English major who worked with NJPIRG, a local organization dedicated to social activism, to register students to vote. “I felt it was the least I could do, because voting is a privilege and no American should take that for granted. It's an important responsibility, that’s what made me volunteer,” explained DeVito.
What Rutgers shows us is that national issues can still affect a university even though the university institution does not affect the national issues. The lack of swing-state potential, concrete blue state status and lack of partisan debate do not change the fact that national concerns are still relevant at Rutgers and that local issues exist at every level of community.