Rutgers University GC Emphasizes Importance of Diversity

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Alger studied employment law at Harvard Law School because ''it seemed to have a real impact on people's lives.'' After graduating and getting some experience under his belt, Alger found a job at the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. He said this was his first opportunity to train a staff on diversity. There was one employee specifically who challenged his authority to speak about diversity when he was a middle-class white man. It was yet another lesson to Alger that everyone can have their own stereotypes and that each person has a valuable (or at least viable) opinion.

After a few years' experience, Alger discovered that his true passion lay in higher education and, after completing the necessary training, was hired by the University of Michigan in 2000. After his arrival, two students filed law suits against the university, claiming that due to the university's affirmative action policy, they were denied their own rights and admission to the law school. Alger worked with outside counsel on the case and the university won its defense of both the law school's and the university's admissions policies. Alger's largest contribution to the case was coordinating the amici briefs. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was convinced of the validity and value of the law school's policy. Referencing the defense, she spoke of her opinion that the benefits of a diverse student body had been shown as ''not theoretical but real, as major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today's increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints.''

In 2005, Alger left the University of Michigan for a position as general counsel at Rutgers University. He said he had hoped for this position at a major research university, and when the opportunity came, he jumped on it. Rutgers University has a 45% minority student body, so this position was right up Rutgers' alley. He loves dealing with and solving the issues that are the most controversial. As society evolves, more and more issues are coming to the fore. Muslims objecting to being photographed without their veils on and people of transgender being able to use the bathroom of their choice are just two issues that have arisen on the campus this year.

Alger emphasizes the importance of these issues in the workplace, however. He references issues such as these, as well as employees demanding accommodations on mental conditions, other religious beliefs, and in areas like emotional well-being. These issues may just be rising now, but Alger says they will become more prominent and employers everywhere, as well as their attorneys, need to be aware of them and how to address them when they do come up.

A student in Alger's class at Rutgers, when asked about her high school experiences with diversity, said she enjoyed more diverse learning atmospheres because, ''You learn a lot from the people around you.'' She enjoys being at Rutgers where the diverse student body ''mirrors the work force we're going to see.''

This diversified work force is exactly what Rutgers is trying to bring to people's attention. It is both valuable and necessary. Everyone should be aware of the rising issues and be prepared to handle them in the future.

Harvard Law School.


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