Supporting Our Students' Respectful Free Expression and Privacy

November 15, 2016

Dear Rutgers Students,

Respectful dialogue is at the heart of everything we do at Rutgers; indeed, it makes us great. Our right to free expression is weighty, it carries with it tremendous power and enormous responsibility.

A community as diverse as ours holds many different views – and we value them all. We celebrate our diverse racial, ethnic, and economic profile, and we embrace our political diversity. Just like we encourage students to reach out to understand people of other races, ethnicities, genders, or cultures, so, too, must we encourage understanding among students of differing political beliefs.

As President, I want to emphasize that Rutgers University stands together with all our students. No matter your political view, ethnicity, religious beliefs, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or nationality, you are first and foremost a Rutgers student, and you are owed our respect, our support, and our best efforts to keep you safe and secure as you express your opinions and pursue your studies.

Our University is and must be a safe place for all people to live and learn – where students and others of all viewpoints may express their ideas with the full expectation that they will be heard and respected.  Robust exchanges may not always be comfortable, but they must always be respectful.

We encourage those discussions. They make us stronger and more resilient. But please know that we expect those discussions to be civil; we will not tolerate hate speech, threats of physical harm or intimidation by anyone on any side of any discussion on our campuses.

Our chancellors have been providing opportunities for students to express themselves, to share their concerns publicly and to speak privately with professionals to answer personal or legal concerns that they may have. Students who feel anxious or upset may always seek assistance from counseling professionals at the student health services locations in Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick. The Rutgers Law School operates an Immigrant Rights Clinic (located at the Center for Law and Justice, room 402A, in Newark; 973-353-5292) which can confidentially answer questions regarding immigration law or other concerns of undocumented students.

Over the past few days, many students have raised concerns about their privacy and their safety. You should know that:

  • We will protect student confidentiality and will not share private information unless required by law or a court order. We expect all persons associated with the University to protect student privacy and confidentiality, as well.
  • Rutgers police do not inquire into nor record the immigration status of students or other persons unless a serious crime has been committed.
  • Rutgers University does not use E-verify for any purposes other than to comply with longstanding federal law regarding employment eligibility. Immigration status is not a factor in student housing decisions.

Finally, you should be aware that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy characterizes colleges and universities, like Rutgers, as “sensitive locations,” places where, in the normal course, enforcement actions should not occur unless extraordinary circumstances exist.

We cherish and will protect the rights of free expression and privacy that are afforded to all members of the Rutgers community. We will do everything in our power to protect the safety of our students and community. We embrace the passion and commitment to civic engagement that have defined Rutgers for 250 years. Let us set an example for the country that shows how real freedom of expression can be exercised in a safe and respectful manner.

Sincerely,

Robert Barchi