What does it feel like to have earned a place in Rutgers University’s history, while simultaneously working toward its successful future? Just ask SC&I’s Assistant Dean for Information and Technology Jon Oliver '85. He is the first staff member in the history of Rutgers to be elected Chair of the University Senate.
“It is important to me to be up to the job, to be a positive force for all of the university community,” Oliver said.
According to the university, “The Rutgers University Senate is the only advisory and legislative body that represents the entire community of faculty, students, staff, administrators, and alumni to the Rutgers' president and boards. It serves as the principal advisory body to the president. On certain matters, the president acts only after receiving the advice of the Senate or giving the Senate time to present its views.
“The Rutgers University Senate is the only governing body at the university that is comprised of faculty, staff, administrators, students, and alumni . . . Currently the Rutgers University Senate body consists of 255 members representing 5 constituencies within 37 schools, including: 133 faculty, 58 students, 18 staff, 41 administrators and 6 alumni.”
In his role as Senate Chair and as a member of the senate, Oliver will advise Rutgers President Barchi and the Rutgers Board of Governors on the university budget, the establishment or dissolution of colleges, schools, and institutes. He has an impact on regulations affecting students and faculty, such as those concerning academic freedom and equal opportunities, and he helps legislate the minimum standards of admission and the academic calendar.
Oliver is motivated by a number of factors to take on this critically-important and time-consuming work. “I have been at Rutgers since 1980 as an undergraduate and since 1986 as a full time staff member. I have always loved the university since the first time I walked on campus and I have always wanted to make a difference here. Rutgers is an important and impactful institution and has been around a lot longer than I have, and will be here long after I am gone. I want to make a small contribution to the institution and try to do well for future generations,” Oliver said.
Staff were added to the Senate in 2006, up until then, only faculty, students, PTLs and alumni were eligible to serve, Oliver said. He hoped to win a seat in 2006, but he unfortunately lost. He campaigned again in 2008 (senate members are up for re-election every two years), and won. He has held a seat ever since, having been re-elected numerous times.
In 2010 Oliver became the co-chair of the Senate’s University Structure and Governance Committee. In 2016 he became Vice Chair of the Senate. In the latest election, in 2019, he ran as Chair and was elected.
Sitting on two senate committees, Oliver explained, “My University Structure and Governance Committee looks at issues that impact the structure of units and the governance of the university. Since 2012, I have been on the Senate Executive Committee. The Executive Committee acts on the behalf of the whole Senate when it is not in session and also accepts committee reports and schedules their deliberations.”
Oliver represents the needs of the staff as part of his role, and said, “I do represent the staff but I am a University Senator. I always try to keep that in mind when investigating and discussing issues. I advocate for staff but more importantly I advocate for the entire institution. Most issues that the Senate discusses and deliberates are issues that will benefit all. I have never seen an issue that is for the benefit of one single constituency at the expense of one or more others.”
“I hope to leave the Senate and the university just a little bit better, Oliver said. “I know I play a very small part in the life and history of Rutgers, but I want to do what I can to make it an even better AAU and Big Ten university.”