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SPAA Town Hall Meeting Discusses Racism in Public Administration and Actionable Solutions for the School

SPAA Town Hall Meeting on July 8, 2020: "Racism in Public Administration"

The COVID-19 outbreak, the resulting economic fallout, and the Black Lives Matter movement have brought structural inequalities and institutional racism back into the limelight. Rutgers SPAA hosted a virtual town hall meeting on Wednesday, July 8, to address how these ongoing issues have impacted the field of public administration and the school, and how the SPAA community can come together to move the mission of the school forward in these turbulent times. 

SPAA’s Director of Public Engagement, Sharon Stroye, started the town hall by asking all participants to think about how institutional racism reinforces the inequities in the systems, and posed the question to the discussants and participants: “As a public administration community, how could we work through some of these inequities in place?” 

Marilyn Rubin, distinguished research fellow at SPAA, began a discussion of President Woodrow Wilson, Princeton University’s recent removal of his name from schools, his federal policies which reintroduced segregation in the federal government, and his practicing of administrative racism throughout his presidency. Dr. Rubin concluded her remarks by adding, “This moves us from Woodrow Wilson to now – a full century after Wilson’s presidency, we still have administrative racism.”

Dean Charles Menifield opened up the town hall meeting to all participants to hear their views, questions, and suggestions on tackling institutional racism. He asked the SPAA community their opinions on introducing a revised diversity plan, which will serve as a guiding document for faculty and students to discuss institutional racism and ways to tackle it. He suggested that decreasing racism comes through exposure and associations. "We should increase diversity in faculty and staff hiring processes; engage in open and active discussion about racism in our classrooms; and expose students to reading materials, assignments and speakers from persons of diverse background and from those who offer alternative views to popular sentiment," he said.

Students, faculty, and alumni openly discussed how SPAA could utilize diverse voices in classrooms and varied scholars in pedagogy and curriculum. One of the takeaways was that SPAA faculty should embed diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice in every topic area, throughout the curriculum. In addition, it was recommended that the school create a certificate with appropriate courses that address diversity, inclusion, equity, and the LGBTQ community.

SPAA students acknowledged how Rutgers University–Newark has done a lot of work to address racism and improve white consciousness. However, SPAA BA student and newly elected president of the Rutgers-Newark Student Governing Association, Dylan Terpstra added “We take some things for granted here at Rutgers. I think white students like myself need to get uncomfortable. Comfort can be put at the expense if we are going to be serving and working for the public.”