The School of Arts and Sciences is the largest and most comprehensive school at Rutgers University with history that goes back to the university’s founding as Queen’s College in 1766.
As the school begins the university diversity strategic planning process in spring of 2022, we acknowledge the seriousness of the mission. We recognize that our school’s historic connection to Rutgers’ earliest days places upon us a great responsibility to proceed with absolute honesty and candor.
For in 2015, the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History began research for the Scarlet and Black report and book series that would forever change the way we think about Rutgers’ early history in colonial-era America. The findings, in part, show that Rutgers founders and prominent early leaders were slave owners, that some of their families profited from the slave trade, and that the university benefited from the displacement of the Native Americans. The research also showed that the foundation for the iconic Old Queens Campus was laid by a slave known only by his first name, Will.
Much has happened over 255 years, and Rutgers University today is a globally engaged teaching and research institution with one of the most diverse student populations in the nation. The School of Arts and Sciences, and its legacy undergraduate colleges played a major role in shaping the modern Rutgers, expanding access to underserved populations, and launching pioneering and nationally recognized programs in women’s history, Africana studies, and Latino and Caribbean studies. The school’s creation in 2007 spurred the development of an innovative Core Curriculum that requires students to take courses in which they will study topics involving human difference, global issues, and social justice. Our Signature Courses address specific challenges from “Black Lives Matter” to “Inequality” to “Human Nature and Human Diversity.”
We welcome the 2020 arrival of Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway and support his challenge to build a Beloved Community in which all members work together and are heard, respected, and valued.
But our past, as detailed in the Scarlet and Black, should never be far from our minds as we move through this process. For despite signs of progress, Rutgers continues to face significant challenges in its efforts to become a diverse and inclusive institution. The percentages of both Black and Latino faculty at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, for example, remain under 4 percent. In SAS, one of the major science divisions reports just one Black and one Latino among its tenured and tenure-track positions.
There remains, also, much work to do to provide access to a Rutgers education and extend other forms of support and service to marginalized communities throughout New Jersey. The most recent U.S. Census data shows Hispanic/Latino and Black people account for 20.9 and 15 percent respectively of the New Jersey population. Yet among full-time students at Rutgers New Brunswick in 2021, they made up 13.2 and 7.3 percent respectively.
In addition, we cannot develop a strategic plan in isolation from our contemporary moment, with its continuing crisis of police violence against Black people, the increasing visibility of expressions of white supremacy, and the policies recently adopted in other states that many believe will disenfranchise voters of color.
The Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences comes to this process with strong resources: a renowned faculty, talented staff, and world-class academic programs. Our goal should be nothing less than becoming a national model for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
This involves setting bold policies while recognizing the role that structural racism plays in creating deep societal disparities. We need to establish a schoolwide culture that will foster a diverse faculty and staff workforce, provide students the knowledge they need to become positive forces in their communities, and continuously expand access to our programs in a society beset by chronic inequality, including in New Jersey where school districts are among the most segregated in the nation.
What follows in this baseline report is a summary of where the School of Arts and Sciences is at this moment, 2022, as it seeks to reach its highest potential as a diverse, inclusive, equitable community of students, staff, and faculty. This baseline report follows the five categories established by Rutgers University for the strategic planning process and adds breakout sections to showcase some of our most innovative and effective programs
Because it is focused on programs and policies that are in place, the report does not include some of the very promising actions taken by deans, faculty, and faculty fellows since this strategic planning process began in early 2021. We acknowledge the work that is taking place, including plans to develop academic support systems aimed at improving retention rates in sciences. In addition, humanities and social and behavioral sciences are looking at cluster hiring proposals that will improve faculty diversity and are coming up with bold new ways to promote inclusive teaching and scholarship. We look forward to full and through discussions across the school as we develop the strategic plan in 2022.