Chancellor Diner's 2010 Address to the Campus

November 4, 2010

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Good afternoon, everyone. This is my ninth annual address to the campus, and I am very flattered to see so many of you here. Over the past nine years, I am happy to report Rutgers-Newark has remained steadfast in four areas: our longstanding commitment to opportunity, our commitment to diversity, our engagement with the city, and our distinguished research.


Let me begin by sharing something I am sure everyone in this room already knows but I never grow weary of telling. For the 14th year in a row U.S. News & World Report has ranked Rutgers-Newark as the most diverse campus of all national universities in the United States, and we are very proud of that standing. Nevertheless, many of you have heard my criticism of U.S. News rankings that purport to evaluate academic quality. Those rankings are based heavily on “reputational studies” and SAT scores. The U.S. News & World Report surveyors write to every president and chancellor in the country and ask them to rank all the national universities on a scale of one to five, with five signifying the best. When I get the rankings form, I always rank Rutgers-Newark five and then indicate “no basis of judgment” for every other university in America. That is my way of protesting the U.S. News' claim that its rankings measure quality.

U.S. News & World Report introduced a new category this year called "A+ Schools for B Students". For many years I have insisted Rutgers-Newark is a top school for students who are not from the kinds of privileged backgrounds that largely determine access to the most highly-selective schools. Students of modest means have come here for generations and have obtained a great education.

The Washington Monthly also offers a new ranking of colleges and universities as an alternative to the rankings of U.S. News & World Report. Based on contributions to the public good, the Washington Monthly rankings have three criteria. The first is social mobility (i.e., schools that recruit and graduate low-income students). The second is research (i.e., quality of research and cutting-edge scholarship produced by faculty and the number and quality of candidates for doctoral degrees produced by an institution). The third is service (i.e., degree to which students give back to their communities). Among national universities, Rutgers-Newark ranked 18th in the United States and is in good company. Those ranked just above us include the University of Texas, Austin; the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor; the University of Washington, University of Chicago, Stanford, Syracuse, Harvard, MIT and several University of California campuses -- San Diego, Berkley, Los Angeles, Davis and Santa Barbara. Many Rutgers-Newark academic programs have also received high rankings from various organizations and institutions.


Rutgers-Newark continues to gain increased national visibility for a number of reasons. First of all, there is a growing national interest in urban universities as anchors for the rebirth of cities. More and more, people are talking about universities and hospitals ("eds and meds") as the foundation on which older industrial cities can be revitalized today. A group called the Anchor Institutions Task Force, formed approximately two years ago, is promoting this idea. A number of higher education organizations are lobbying for an Urban University Renaissance Act of the 21st Century, which would enable urban universities to do for cities today what land grant agricultural schools did for agriculture 100 years ago. Last summer, senior White House staffers invited me and other urban university presidents and chancellors to the White House to talk about the Obama administration’s development of an urban policy initiative. We spent the day discussing the role universities can play as anchors to build employment, address social needs, improve urban school systems, and the like.

Throughout the United States, there is growing recognition that the country must increase significantly the number of high school graduates who attend and graduate from college. The United States is falling far behind other countries in this regard. Our economy cannot remain strong if we do not raise the proportion of our population obtaining college degrees. Urban universities like Rutgers-Newark are absolutely vital to solving this growing concern. We enroll large numbers of first generation and low income students. Forty-eight percent of our undergraduates qualify for need-based financial aid, compared with 34 percent Rutgers-wide. Thirty-eight percent of our undergraduate students qualify for a federal Pell grant, which go to the lowest income students.

Rutgers-Newark also partners with urban school systems, particularly Newark Public Schools, to increase the number of students who graduate from high school and hopefully attend Rutgers-Newark. Moreover, we work very closely with the community colleges. About half the students to whom we award baccalaureate degrees transfer from community colleges, and their academic performance is comparable to students who started here as freshmen. Our collaboration with community colleges enables students from modest backgrounds and those who did not necessarily start with the strongest academic preparation to move ahead and succeed.

Then, of course, there is the growing debate in the country on immigration and cultural diversity. Unfortunately, a lot of this debate is quite negative. But once again, Rutgers-Newark is a shining example of what immigration and cultural diversity can mean for our society. For this reason, the American Council on Education (ACE) chose Rutgers-Newark last year as a case study for its leadership development program. Approximately 40 mid-career university faculty and staff spend a year interning with the president of another university and complete an intensive curriculum on higher education issues. For many years, that curriculum included a case study of a hypothetical college. Two years ago, the ACE fellows program decided to have its members study a real institution, and it selected Rutgers-Newark for the case study. The ACE fellows were asked to study two aspects of our institution, our diversity and our urban engagement. In a recent issue of The Presidency, a magazine published by ACE and mailed to all presidents and provosts in American universities, I wrote an article about this case study. This is further evidence that we are gaining national attention.


Enough bragging about Rutgers-Newark -- now I want to brag about individuals. Every year I like to talk about some of the accomplishments of our great faculty. I always worry that I am going to make enemies because I cannot list everything everyone has done. If you are not included, please do not be offended. These are highlights. This is not a comprehensive list.

Let me talk about books written by our faculty. Dean John Farmer's book, The Ground Truth: the Untold Story of America on the Attack of 9/11, was listed as one of the 100 notable books of 2009 by The New York Times and received rave reviews everywhere. The Mariposa Club, a novel by Rigoberto Gonzalez of our English Department and our MFA in Creative Writing program, was selected as a 2010 Rainbow Book by the American Library Association. Lucille Joel of the College of Nursing received the American Journal of Nursing 2009 Book of the Year Award for Advanced Practice Nursing. Laura Lomas of our English Department received the Modern Language Association prize in U.S. Latina and Latino literary and cultural studies for Translating Empire on Jose Marti. Jayne Ann Phillips, director of our MFA in Creative Writing program, was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award for Lark & Termite, her newest novel. Beryl Satter of our History Department won several awards for her book Family Properties: Race, Real Estate and the Exploitation of Black Urban America. She also won the 2009 National Jewish Book Award, the Organization of American Historians 2010 Liberty Legacy Award for the best book on civil rights history, and an outstanding book award from the New Jersey Council on Humanities.

Simi Kedia from the Finance and Economics Department won the award for the best paper in the Review of Financial Studies. Susanne Kim of the School of Law won the Association of American Law School Best Paper Award on gender studies. Miklos Vasarhelyi in the Accounting Department won the Notable Contribution Award given by the American Accounting Association. Kyle Farmbry of the School of Public Affairs and Administration won the L. Douglas Wilder Award for Scholarship in Social Equity and Public Policy for an article he published in the Journal of Public Affairs Education. Sanjay Pandey from the School of Public Affairs and Administration won the Northeast Conference on Public Administration Best Conference Paper Award.

Two faculty members won Fulbright Awards this year: Vera Burgelson from the School of Law and Jill Josephson from the Political Science Department. Charles Auffant from the School of Law received an award from the Section on Clinical Legal Education of the Association of American Law Schools for teaching excellence and commitment to teaching clinical legal education. Douglas Carroll from the Marketing Department was awarded the 2010 Psychometric Society Lifetime Achievement Award. Michael Crew also from the Department of Finance and Economics won the Transportation and Public Utilities Group Distinguished Member Award. Jon Dubin from the School of Law received the Garden State Bar Association’s Oliver Randolph Award for contributions to civil rights. Barbara Hoffman of the School of Law received the 2010 Annual Achievement Award from the Association of Community Cancer Centers. Rachel Jones of the College of Nursing was inducted as a fellow of the Academy of Nursing. Jody Miller of the School of Criminal Justice was selected Scholar of the Year by the American Society of Criminology Division on Women and Crime. Dan Morgenstern, longtime head of our Jazz Institute, was awarded his 8th Grammy for album notes for the complete Louis Armstrong sessions. Clement Price of our History Department was honored with Essex County’s Martin Luther King Jr. Award and also with the American Jewish Committee’s Metro New Jersey Community Relations Award. Alan Sadovnik was Routledge Publishers’ featured author for the month of September 2010. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. We have a fabulous faculty doing amazing things.

We also have several new leaders. Todd Clear is doing a wonderful job as the new dean of the School of Criminal Justice. Kemel Dawkins is the new executive vice chancellor for administration. We have launched a search for a new dean of Rutgers Business School – Newark and New Brunswick, as Michael Cooper will be leaving that position at the end of the current academic year.


This year we have an all-time high enrollment of 11,800 students. In 2006 our enrollment was 10,200 students, which means we have grown by 1,600 students in four years. When I first arrived at Rutgers-Newark 13 years ago, the enrollment had been declining every year for over a decade, and there was a reason. Students and their parents were frightened of Newark. Fortunately, we have long bypassed that fear. The word about the quality of a Rutgers-Newark education is spreading, as reflected in the enrollment growth.

Rutgers-Newark also has experienced growth in external grant funding. Our deans and faculty have done a great deal to foster the award of external grants in all disciplines. In fiscal year 2008, we had external grants of about $19.5 million. In fiscal year 2009, the number jumped to slightly more than $26 million. Now it has increased to $30 million. These results show that faculty members are becoming increasingly competitive in their proposals, even in an ever-tightening economic environment, and that key administrators are ensuring critical resources are available to faculty to help them write winning proposals. Private fundraising, on the other hand, is down. We are not alone in this regard. It is down across the entire country including the other two Rutgers campuses. While fundraising is low, things are looking better than they did last year.


This year, we have 52 new tenure, tenure-tracked, or clinical faculty. There were a lot of vacancies due to retirements or spots that remained unfilled until new deans arrived. Last year I reported that we had exceptional diversity in the new faculty we recruited and I gave you some figures on that. I am delighted to report the same has happened this year. Twenty-six of the new faculty appointments are men and 26 are women. Forty-six percent are non-Caucasian, eight are African American, 14 are Asian American, and two are Hispanic. Thirteen of the new faculty members were born and educated outside the United States: five from China, two from the Philippines, and one from each of Greece, Turkey, Israel, Korea, Britain, and Peru. We may now have one of the most diverse faculties of any research university in the country. While I take great satisfaction in the diversity of our faculty, it is not really my doing. The credit goes to the deans and existing faculty who do the recruiting.

Many factors go into decisions about why top scholars who have a variety of choices would come to Rutgers-Newark. We have many advantages. We have great deans and faculty committed to recruiting excellence in general and recruiting excellence with diversity in particular. We also have the most diverse student body in the world. Numerous faculty to whom I have spoken, of varied races, ethnicities and religions, tell me consistently that the diversity of Rutgers-Newark’s student body is an enormous lure. They really love the extraordinary mix of students we have on this campus. It is exciting to have all the cultures of the world and many of the religions of the world represented in one classroom.

I also hear from many new faculty that they really love our location. They are very eager to engage in the city of Newark and enthralled by our close proximity to New York City, which has always been and continues to be a major asset.


Planning is ongoing for the implementation of the new undergraduate curriculum in which students will have to complete two concentrations. Under the new curriculum, students will be doing more focused, upper level work. This is a fabulous initiative developed by the Arts and Sciences faculty.

Last year I appointed a task force on community-based learning to ascertain what we do by way of teaching and learning connected to our surrounding community. The committee recommended we establish a program to provide support for faculty to increase community-based learning. The program is now being headed by Pat Kettenring of the School of Public Affairs and Administration under the leadership of Assistant Chancellor Mark Winston.

The ACE fellows who studied our institution brought to our attention the fact that we do not do any rigorous assessment of how our campus’s diversity affects the quality of education our students receive. If we can demonstrate systematically the positive impact diversity has on students’ education, the results will be an important contribution to the overall debate in this country about diversity and its relationship to academic quality. Mark Winston is devising a program to facilitate outcomes assessments on the diversity of the campus. If we have all the cultures of the world represented in the classroom, how do we use this extraordinary diversity effectively? Mark Winston also will continue conducting diversity training workshops for faculty to explore these issues.

There are many other notable academic initiatives:

  • The business school is developing a global MBA program in collaboration with universities in France, Australia, and Hong Kong, in which students will exchange and travel to each other's campuses.
  • The College of Nursing has started a Veterans Health and Wellness Center providing mental health services to veterans and their families. The College of Nursing also has a new specialization in nursing leadership.
  • This fall the School of Public Affairs and Administration launched a new specialization in urban environmental sustainability.
  • The School of Criminal Justice and the School of Law are designing an executive masters/juris doctor in criminal justice for criminal justice professionals, making a higher degree available for people working in the criminal justice field. The two schools also are establishing an institute on criminal justice system reform.
  • The Faculty of Arts and Sciences launched a new minor in LGBTQ studies and has a new research focus in this field spurred by several new faculty appointments.
  • The Faculty of Arts and Sciences also has obtained a $1.8 million grant to acquire a state of the art neuroimaging research instrument, which will be housed in Aidekman Hall.
  • The School of Law has established an Institute for Professional Education. The institute re-connects law school alumni with the law school and students by providing practical skills for displaced attorneys as well as seminars for existing students.

As for student life initiatives, we continue to reach out to the LGBTQ community, which we had been doing long before the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi. The Office of Student Life and Leadership also is undertaking initiatives involving student mental health intervention and suicide prevention, trying to encourage faculty to identify students with apparent concerns and refer those students to on-campus mental health professionals before the students’ problems escalate. We also are bolstering programs and services for our veteran students.

We have a new Office of University and Community Partnerships, headed by Assistant Chancellor Diane Hill, which is advancing our urban mission and fostering volunteer community service by students. Students should be encouraged to be good citizens by volunteering their time for public service. In the fall students celebrated "Make a Difference Day," a day devoted to volunteer service throughout the city of Newark. In the spring students can participate in the Rutgers-Newark "Day of Service," planned for April 15, 2011. Also, as a spring break alternative, our students will have the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity to help build affordable housing for impoverished residents of Appalachia.


I am certain everyone has read about Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the Newark Public Schools. While this is not Rutgers-Newark’s initiative, we are more than willing to conduct rigorous and objective research and analysis on any of the issues that may stem from the endeavor, whether it is an assessment of the initiative itself or research needed to understand how to move forward or improve student performance. Newark is also one of five cities that is part of the Living Cities Collaborative, a coalition of 22 foundations that will make $15 million available to the city of Newark to address intractable problems of low-income people. Two of our centers, the Newark Schools Research Collaborative and the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (CUEED), are partners in this initiative, each playing a research role.

There are many exciting real estate development projects in Newark. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) will be erecting the tallest building in Newark. It will be located directly across the street from NJPAC and will provide market-rate housing and affordable housing for artists. A new project on Broad Street will provide housing for teachers. Also, the building adjacent to the Rutgers Business School will be renovated to support housing for actors. With financial assistance from The Profeta Urban Investment Foundation, a foundation created by philanthropist and real estate executive Paul Profeta, and business advice and coaching from MBA students from CUEED, a new eatery called Cravings has opened on Halsey Street. The Profeta Urban Investment Foundation and CUEED's commitment to Halsey Street's continued commercial development is a win-win for both Rutgers-Newark and the city of Newark. Halsey Street's resurgence promotes entrepreneurship, creates jobs, fuels the local economy, and makes the Rutgers-Newark campus all the more attractive to prospective students and faculty.


Regarding our own facilities development, plans are underway for a new undergraduate residence hall on the Essex Street parking lot, behind 15 Washington Street. Modeled after University Square, the building will contain 300-plus beds, space for parking, and ground-level retail establishments. The redevelopment of 15 Washington Street (the old law school building that has been vacant for nearly 10 years) is now very promising. It will be converted into apartments for graduate students and visiting faculty and will have ground-level commercial space.

We have many other needs on which we plan to focus when funds become available. At the top of my wish list is renovation of our teaching laboratories in the sciences. Their current state is not reflective of our strong science programs. And what are we doing about parking, you ask? Years ago we acquired Parking Deck 3 on Washington Street for students but did not have immediate access to it. This year 100 of the 300 spaces in the garage became available. Apparently the 100 parking spots are sufficient for now because reliable sources tell me rarely have more than 80 spaces been filled.

So what is the state of Rutgers-Newark? There is no question that declining state funding is very troubling. It is getting more difficult for young people and their parents to afford the costs of college. This is a very disturbing trend that probably is more impactful on our students because they typically come from low and modest backgrounds. Ironically, state cutbacks are occurring at a time when national attention is being focused on the role of universities, especially urban universities, to create jobs and revitalize cities. But despite these grave concerns, I hope I have shown convincingly that Rutgers-Newark continues to do terrific things. We continue to gain national visibility and have defined ourselves clearly as a metropolitan university of unique diversity. I believe we are achieving our goal of becoming one of the nation's leading urban universities.

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