Photo: Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University
Rutgers University Foundation’s governing board announced plans today to change its name to the Rutgers University Foundation Board of Directors, eliminating the term “overseers,” a change that comes amid growing nationwide consensus around the abandonment of language that historically has connoted racial inequities.
Since the foundation’s 1973 establishment, its board has been known as the Board of Overseers. Rutgers University Foundation is the nonprofit fundraising affiliate of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway supports the move. “I welcome the Rutgers University Foundation board’s decision to choose a name that better represents them and the work they do so well for the university.”
“I want to congratulate the board on moving so decisively on this matter,” said Nevin Kessler, Rutgers University Foundation president. “It reflects well on the university and on the commitment of the membership to create a board where all feel welcomed to serve.”
Initiated by a unanimous vote of the board during its March 24 meeting, the change will be finalized in the board’s governing documents at its next full meeting this summer.
“Rutgers is one of the world’s most diverse universities, and it has become more diverse while steadily improving its national reputation,” said Phil Scalo, the board’s chairman. “This decision reflects Rutgers’ high standards and our duty to reflect the values of our community in everything we do, including philanthropy.”
The announcement occurs at a time of intense self-examination among colleges and universities nationwide. Many have entered into debates about how to reconcile egalitarian ideals and sometimes difficult histories.
In February, Rutgers announced it is taking further steps to acknowledge its connection to slavery and racial injustice with the creation of four additional historical markers that tell the story of its early benefactors whose families made their fortunes through the slave economy. The markers join others previously installed that were recommended as by the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History as part of the 2015 Scarlet and Black Project.
Kessler noted, “There is close correlation between diversity and excellence in higher education, and we are exceptionally proud of our diverse, highly accomplished alumni body. The foundation’s attention to important details like this name change is indicative of our approach to engaging our full community.”
“At the end of the day, we are committed to helping advance Rutgers’ national standing through philanthropy,” he said. “Our donors share our aspirations and expect our utmost commitment to the high ideals top universities pursue.”