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U. dedicates Rutgers—Newark building in honor of late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Several speakers from the University discussed the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's legacy at yesterday's event. – Photo by Steve Petteway /

The 15 Washington St. building at Rutgers—Newark was dedicated in honor of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg yesterday at an event held to officially rename the building to Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall.

The residence hall was formerly home to Rutgers Law School, where Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught from 1963 to 1972.

Rose Cuison-Villazor, interim co-dean of Rutgers Law School, began the event by welcoming guests and briefly highlighting ideas discussed during the symposium, “Feminism in the Law: An Exploration of Justice Ginsburg’s Legacy,” which was held prior to the building dedication.

The symposium featured several panelists and individuals from Rutgers Law School and had opening remarks from Jane Ginsburg, daughter of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a professor at Columbia Law School.

“(Ruth Bader) Ginsburg began her academic career at Rutgers Law School,” Cuison-Villazor said. “Importantly, it is here, while working with law students and law professors at Rutgers Law School, that Justice Ginsburg began her lifelong work on gender equality, civil rights and equal citizenship.”

Following this introduction, a short video was played where Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself shared her connection to Rutgers and discussed the time that she spent here. Suzanne Kim, associate dean of academic research centers at Rutgers Law School, briefly spoke next.

Kim said this dedication is particularly important at this time, given the recent issues that are occurring both nationally and globally.

She said Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2009 wished to give a keynote speech at Rutgers Law School about the case of Muller v. Oregon and the importance of work-family policies in societal justice and inclusion but could not due to illness.

“Her focus on this is especially important today, as we’re seeing threats to hard-won gains to gender justice taking place in legislatures and courts, including in full display most recently yesterday in the U.S. Supreme Court,” Kim said.

She said Ruth Bader Ginsburg had predicted the future in this regard. The pandemic has revealed the insufficiency of the country’s current model of care for workers and caregivers as gains in female workforce participation have disappeared.

Rutgers—Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor spoke next at the event to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her legacy.

“It is rare that one gets the privilege of dedicating a grand space in one’s university to one who so changed the face of history and who began that journey, in part, right here,” she said.

Cantor said it feels fitting that this hall is right across the street from the park that the mayor of Newark is naming after another prominent female justice figure, Harriet Tubman, as it reminds the community of its shared responsibility to continue to push for justice.

She said Ruth Bader Ginsburg demonstrated strength and courage throughout her work and expressed straightforwardness in her numerous legal dissents during her career.

“As such, we have all the grand challenge of her voice, her honesty, her forthrightness to live up to, as we live into our identity, sharing them with each other and profoundly, proudly stepping forward together,” Cantor said. “And we can find some measure of uplift in light of the diverse generations of changemakers educated right here, and indeed, living now in this very building.”

She said it is important to recognize the extent to which Ruth Bader Ginsburg saw her work as a collective effort, which requires not only owning individual identity, but also bringing these identities together to support a richer whole.

“(Her) words of wisdom apply as so much of her work does, well beyond the legal education, to all that we pursue here at Rutgers—Newark,” Cantor said. “We are all in this together.”

Sherri-Ann Butterfield, executive vice chancellor and associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers—Newark, then introduced Chair of the Rutgers Board of Governors Mark Angelson, who reflected on the court cases Ruth Bader Ginsburg took and her place in U.S. history.

Angelson said that Roe v. Wade, which has received a significant amount of attention recently, would have been handled differently by Ruth Bader Ginsburg had she been involved in the decision, as evidenced by the 1972 case Struck v. Secretary of Defense.

“Justice Ginsburg thought that maybe the perfect case for a woman’s right to choose before an all-male Supreme Court would be the right of a pregnant woman to keep her baby and keep her job in the U.S. Air Force,” he said. “Struck isn’t law today because the then-U.S. solicitor general saw Justice Ginsburg coming and the Air Force gave in before the oral arguments, and therefore it is Roe that is being mentioned by the current Supreme Court.”

Still, Angelson said Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been mentioned in the same sentences as Susan B. Anthony and Thurgood Marshall and may receive further recognition for her role in U.S. history with time.

“I suggest respectfully that she may at some point be mentioned in the same sentence with Dr. King, and maybe with Mahatma Gandhi,” he said. “Her methods were different from those two men, but she changed the lives of more than half the people in the United States of America.”

University President Jonathan Holloway spoke last at the event, stating that this dedication to and honoring of Ruth Bader Ginsburg declares more about Rutgers than simply showing her connection to the University.

“In naming this space for her, we embrace Justice Ginsburg’s commitment to equal justice under the law,” he said. “Her fearlessness in pursuit of a better life for women and for those who have faced hardship and discrimination, her clear-eyed understanding that we still have so much more work ahead if we are to achieve the promise of America.”

Holloway said that throughout her career, Ruth Bader Ginsburg saw and experienced gender inequality but did not let that keep her from pursuing real change in the legal system. He said people like her, and the courage they display, is the reason for the progress that has been made in terms of unfairness and injustice in society.

“To know that the next generation of changemakers who earn degrees from Rutgers—Newark will be living in a space that bears the name of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is incredibly gratifying,” he said. “So as we dedicate this wonderful building to the memory of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, let us dedicate ourselves to the excellence she embodied, the civility she modeled, the values she championed and the progress she never tired of pursuing.”

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