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Conway, RUSA town hall discusses fall break, exam schedules

Rutgers—New Brunswick Chancellor Francine Conway spoke at Rutgers Univerity Student Assembly's town hall while Omay Edekar, a School of Arts and Science senior, and Julia Hernandez, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, fielded questions. – Photo by Alex Kenny

On Thursday, the Rutgers University Student Assembly hosted a town hall featuring Rutgers—New Brunswick Chancellor Francine Conway and members of the Office of the Chancellor.

Jack Ramirez, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and the Assembly president, introduced Conway, who spoke about the current Israel-Hamas War and its impact on the University community.

"Our campus, and many campuses across the nation, have been really grappling with the relation to societal occurrences, specifically what's been happening in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, the immense, immense human suffering and loss of life that's happening there and that continues to happen," she said.

She said she was proud of University students for engaging with recent events in a significant way that differentiates Rutgers from other universities. Conway additionally said that she was thankful for faculty and staff who support students through this state of heightened anxiety across campus.

Conway then spoke about the Academic Master Plan, which she said was designed to combat bureaucracy and better support students by improving the University's academic environment, ensuring timely graduation with as little debt as possible.

She also mentioned initiatives such as the Discovery Advantage, ScarletWell and the Scarlet Guarantee before opening the meeting to a Q&A forum where Assembly members asked Conway about the quality of student life.

Kaia Dyckman, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and Assembly treasurer, asked Conway about the Common Hour Exam Schedule and its negative effect on several student demographics.

Dyckman said the exams, which can conclude as late as 10:40 p.m., are a danger to commuter students traveling home late at night and that the exam schedule can force working students to miss work, thereby decreasing their income.

In response, Conway said that all sections of a course are currently required to take exams at the same time to preserve academic integrity but that she is considering methods of distributing exams during class meeting times.

Adam Halperin, a Rutgers Business School first-year and a College Avenue representative for the Assembly, asked how the Chancellor’s Office could aid in implementing a fall break to support students' mental well-being.

Conway said Halperin's suggestion could be integrated into the ScarletWell program and encouraged him to meet with her and formulate an official proposal to the University Senate and the Faculty Council.

Samantha Carhuaricra, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and the Assembly’s internal affairs chair, said Rutgers is the only university in the Big Ten Academic Alliance that does not have Indigenous departments and programs and that the University has just two Indigenous faculty members.

On behalf of the on-campus Indigenous student organization RU Indigenous Turtle Island, she asked how the Chancellor’s Office intends to amplify and recruit students with Indigenous backgrounds.

Conway said that she wanted to learn more about Rutgers' relationship with Indigenous tribes and invited members of the club to speak with her. Katie Lynch, a School of Engineering senior and president of RU Indigenous Turtle Island, accepted the invitation.

Leann Benny, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and the Assembly’s legislative affairs chair, asked Conway about plans to work with Institutional Planning and Operations (IPO) to address the University’s bussing concerns, particularly with the app Passio GO!, which has received mixed responses from students after its issues during the first week of classes.

Paul Hammond, the associate vice chancellor for technology and instruction, said that congestion on campus is a community issue rather than an IPO issue, though a partnership is essential. Salvador Mena, the senior vice chancellor for the student experience, said the Assembly and IPO could hold a town hall to discuss the issue further.

After addressing more questions, Conway concluded the town hall and suggested another meeting in the spring could help provide updates on the topics discussed on Thursday.

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