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'RU Screw' survival guide: Five tips for dealing with bureaucracy at Rutgers

The “RU Screw” is an infamous struggle here at Rutgers, but there are ways you can make dealing with bureaucracy a little bit easier.  – Photo by Nadia Rahim

Something you will not find in any Rutgers brochure, advertisement or all-inclusive tour is a detailed explanation of the term “RU Screw,” which is not, contrary to popular belief, a Rutgers-themed dating app. The RU Screw is the unifying experience that all Rutgers students have when they need to contact a Rutgers bureaucrat. 

You might think you can game the system — avoid these offices altogether. After all, what could you possibly need from them? A lot. You might notice a mistake on your term bill — one that costs hundreds of dollars and needs to be corrected. You might need a special permission number (SPN) for that one class that only a department chair can give you. Maybe you have some parking tickets that need to be contested. The point is, at some point, you will end up in one of these dimly lit offices, and you will need to know how to get around. 

So here is an RU Screw survival guide to hold your hand through some of the most infuriating, difficult and downright painful Rutgers experiences. 

  1. Always do your homework. If there’s something to be read online (and I do not mean Reddit) about your situation, read it. Don’t schedule a meeting for something that’s already on the "frequently asked questions" page. Scour Rutgers websites for their official policies pertaining to your problem. Do any paperwork that can be done online. 

  2. Do not wait until the last minute. Let’s put it this way: If your term bill is due in a week and you have an inexplicable $1,000 charge that you do not want to pay, pull out your checkbook because there is no way the Office of Financial Aid will get back to you in time to fix the problem. Be on top of your required courses, term bills, fines, due dates and more. And when an issue comes up, reach out to the correct office as soon as possible. All jokes aside, Rutgers offices deal with tons of student crises every day — yours is not going to be a priority because it simply cannot be. Be ready to follow up after a week of no response and allot at least two to three weeks to resolve anything. 

  3. Be as politely pushy as you can be. It is very easy to be ushered out of an office with a polite “We cannot help you, sorry!” The fact is, you need to be ready to advocate for yourself in front of bureaucrats whose patience and attention span are limited. Do not waste anyone’s time. Be direct and always leave an office with answers. If someone with “Dean” in front of their name does not have an answer, then they should know someone who does. Be respectful, but do not let your questions and concerns go unanswered. 

  4. Ask your professors for help. Professors, like us, are not exempt from working with the Rutgers bureaucracy. Chances are they know who you should contact and what you should say. This does not mean that you should saddle your professors with every bureaucratic problem you have, but appeal to them in special cases.

  5. Be flexible. Sometimes, the RU Screw will screw you and there is no way around it. You will not be able to take that class you wanted, triple count a credit or use your scholarship to travel abroad. So at the end of the day, ask for alternative solutions and advice. If a department chair cannot give you an SPN, they can recommend another course.  

The RU Screw is, unfortunately, unavoidable. No matter how much you try to avoid the Office of Financial Aid, you will end up there at some point. You can run but you cannot hide. Keep these five guidelines in mind and things will be a little more bearable. The fact of the matter is that Rutgers is a massive school and keeping a massive school running smoothly is next to impossible. Some of these offices are poorly run, others are understaffed, but no matter how difficult it is to work with the Rutgers bureaucracy, you will have to. Patience is a virtue you will have to exercise, and you can only hope that the Rutgers employee on the other end of the phone call, email or meeting will share this virtue too. Good luck!


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