On Friday, September 24 a group of New Brunswick students led a walkout during President McCormick’s annual address to the university. The walkout was due to a lack of response from McCormick on the lowering of tuition for illegal immigrants at state colleges.
McCormick was interrupted four times during his address. Jorge Casalins, Rutgers University Student Assembly parliamentarian and Latino Student Council political chair, was one of the 50 participants.
Casalins shouted things like, “You hold in your hands the destiny of thousands of people who came here and deserve an education,” and “If he (McCormick) is not going to listen to us, I won’t listen to him either and neither will we (pointing to his fellow protestors).”
After getting minimal response from the President, and being told to hold questions and comments until the end, all 50 students rose in unison and left the student center, hands wrapped in Rutgers red t-shirts.
Since the incident, there has been an abundance of comments from the administration and RUSA. Student Representative to the Board of Governors Jonathan Nycz issued a request for Casalins to make a public apology, and if he refuses to resign from his position all together.
Among the 500 attendees at the address were Camden senate representatives. Graduate Representative to the Rutgers Board of Trustees, Daniel J. Swartley-McArdle commented on the walkout.
“The walkout was a poor decision because it essentially destroyed the relationship with RUSA and the Rutgers administration. This is the first democratically, directly elected Rutgers University Student Assembly. All the previous administrations have been a combination of elected from within and appointments. The relationship between RUSA and Rutgers administration has always been shaky and been taken less than serious. This walkout has been the breaking straw and unless the student (Casalins) that led the walkout, who is the RUSA parliamentarian, steps down from his office I can’t see a way that RUSA and Rutgers can move on.”
McCormick commented on the incident by saying, “It is not within our power…to solve that problem. It will have to be solved within the government of New Jersey and the nation.” Casalins and his fellow protestors have been challenging the administration and requesting public audiences with the President for over a year now.
McCormick is open about the university’s support in the change of the federal legislation. He urges students to understand that it is not within his power to make this change, despite student requests for the university to make the change anyway and allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition. Students say that it is the university’s duty to lead the example and the state will follow.
Currently illegal immigrants can be admitted into Rutgers as immigration status is not required at the time of application. It is only when they go to pay their in-state tuition bills that they are required to prove legal residency. It is currently unknown how many of the 54,600 out-of-state students are illegal. Illegal immigrants are also banned from getting state financial aid. These provisions make it significantly difficult for such students to pay their tuition; leaving many of them deregistered or unable to attend the university all together.
Although there has been no tangible progress since the walkout several of the protestors are staying hopeful, saying “We’ve got their attention now.”