A Beginning, and End, as We Converge at Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Dear Members of Rutgers University­–New Brunswick Community:

As we embark on a new academic year full of beginnings, I would be remiss if I didn’t say a few words in follow-up to President Barchi’s announcement yesterday of my decision to end my time as Chancellor at Rutgers­ University–New Brunswick next June.  The decision to step down and take a break from this institution for which I have great affection did not come easy. For 12 years Rutgers has been my home and it gives me great comfort to know that it will remain home, albeit with a new set of exciting challenges, as I begin the next phase of my academic career. Having said all that, a year is a long time and there is much to do and celebrate at Rutgers.

Chief among these “things to do” is to vote and engage in our democratic process. Since I began my career in academe, I have been a witness to 12 Presidential elections. College campuses are often at the center of national conversations about social, political and cultural issues, and Presidential elections amplify and crystalize these debates. Ours is an institution with a proud history of social and political activism and advocacy, so I am urging you all to passionately participate in the debate during the days and weeks before Election Day on November 8. As you do this, I also urge you to be mindful of how you engage, not just why you engage. In President Obama’s speech at our commencement in May he called on us to have the courage to interact with those we with disagree with and to not shrink from a difficult debate. He said:

“If you disagree with somebody, bring them in and ask them tough questions.  Hold their feet to the fire.  Make them defend their positions. If somebody has got a bad or offensive idea, prove it wrong.  Engage it.  Debate it.  Stand up for what you believe in. Don't be scared to take somebody on.  Don't feel like you got to shut your ears off because you're too fragile and somebody might offend your sensibilities.  Go at them if they’re not making any sense. Use your logic and reason and words.  And by doing so, you’ll strengthen your own position, and you’ll hone your arguments.” 

While much attention will be paid to the election, November carries an even more significant date for the University. November 10 marks the official 250th anniversary of Rutgers’ founding. So next on your “to-do list” should be to celebrate. Over the next 64 days, the University will continue our yearlong celebration, and the festivities will culminate on November 10 with A Day of Revolutionary Thinking. This event is a showcase of alumni success and scholarship and as the concluding program of Rutgers' yearlong anniversary commemoration; it will connect outstanding alumni in an array of fields with current students, the leaders of tomorrow, through the instructional activities of our esteemed faculty.  

One more thing I encourage you to do this semester, especially you who are new to Rutgers, is to make Rutgers your home. When I came here 12 years ago, I quickly realized that Rutgers was a big and complex place, but that its bigness and complexity meant that there was a place for me here. There, too, is a place for you. And as you find it and begin to call it home, let’s recall what President Obama said about Rutgers­–New Brunswick on his visit:

“America converges here.  And in so many ways, the history of Rutgers mirrors the evolution of America – the course by which we became bigger, stronger, and richer and more dynamic, and a more inclusive nation.”

There is immense truth in the President’s observation. America converges here at Rutgers­–New Brunswick because of the diversity of ideas and people we welcome. This convergence is our true strength ­– it creates a home in our scholarly community for all who join.

For 12 years as a dean, as an executive vice president, as an interim president and finally as chancellor, I have watched proudly as Rutgers has become bigger, stronger, richer, more dynamic and a more inclusive University. I am certain that this progress, unique to Rutgers, will continue this year and long into the future.


Richard L. Edwards, Ph.D.

Chancellor, Rutgers University–New Brunswick