Ruiz, Pou Advance Legislation to Promote Inclusivity on College Campuses

Trenton – In response to the lack of diversity of both student and staff populations in colleges and universities, the Senate Higher Education Committee advanced three bills today that would set requirements to promote inclusivity on college campuses.

The first bill, S-2793, sponsored by Senators M. Teresa Ruiz and Nellie Pou would require each public institution of higher education to develop a faculty and student diversity plan. The diversity plan would establish clear goals for increasing the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and students for each academic program at the institution. Additionally, the Secretary of Education would be directed to provide guidance on seeking diversity within faculty search and selection programs.

“When minority students go to college, it can often be a jarring experience to go from a community where almost everyone looks like them to a campus where almost no one looks like them,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “It is critical that our students of color and especially our first generation students not only have clubs and organizations to support them but also representatives within the faculty and administration who understand where they are coming from and can offer guidance when they need it most.”

The second bill, S-2892, sponsored by Senator Pou, would require the Secretary of Higher Education to establish a program to assist institutions of higher education in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. The goal would be to expand the number of students from populations historically underrepresented in the STEM fields, including women.

“In 2015, only 12 percent of all engineering graduates were minorities, and in that same year, three times as many white men graduated from an engineering program than women,” said Senator Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This field of study is a historically white male dominated field, and we must change the foundation of STEM to promote inclusivity for all. By enacting a program focused on recruiting and retaining more minorities and women, both groups will be more likely to join and remain in these programs.”

The third bill, S-2739, sponsored by Senator Ruiz, would eliminate the citizenship requirement for student representatives on boards of trustees of certain public institution of higher education. Currently, the State colleges, and two of the State’s pubic research universities, Montclair State University and Rowan University, only allow students who are United States citizens to join their board of trustees. Under this bill, that requirement would be eliminated, permitting students of any citizenship status to become a representative.

All three bills cleared committee by votes of 5-0.