Published June 12, 2020
Members of the Rutgers community have come together to call for change as protests against police violence and racism sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody continue nationwide. Meanwhile, Rutgers experts have been at the forefront of understanding the COVID pandemic and have been offering key guidance to local officials, communities, and media outlets about moving forward safely. Here’s your weekly guide to Rutgers experts in the news.
While many cities across the country grappled with unrest and clashes between police and demonstrators at the start of protests over George Floyd’s death, Camden has remained relatively peaceful due to its investment in community policing. The city has seen significant drops in the murder rate and violent crime since the police department dissolved in 2013 and merged with the county yet still faces substantial crime rates. Since the merger, officers have been encouraged to walk the neighborhoods, build relationships in the community and prioritize de-escalation. Addressing what works when it comes to issues surrounding police reform, John Farmer Jr., director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics and former New Jersey attorney general recommends improved transparency and accountability in policing. ”If what it means is reconfiguring the mission to align with expectations, then I think that’s the right approach to take.”
The killing of George Floyd has exposed more than systemic flaws in American law enforcement. It has also sparked new examinations of the interplay between police misconduct, media technologies, and journalism. An NJTV News report on those issues quotes Kimberly Mutcherson, co-dean of Rutgers Law School in Camden, who says the brazen behavior of Minneapolis cops on camera “shows you how deep the rot is.” Mutcherson continues: “The idea that you can know that someone is filming you while you perpetrate enormous violence on a man who’s handcuffed and face down on the [ground] says, ‘I’m not scared of being accountable for this.’”
An incident in New York’s Central Park in which a white woman called police because a black man asked her to leash her dog is an all-too-familiar story for people of color. Vox explores the pandemic of racism in American cities, citing research by Rutgers-Newark’s Frank Edwards (SCJ) and researchers at Michigan and Washington University in St. Louis which finds that black men face 1 in 1,000 odds of being killed by the police over the course of their lives. The study, published last summer, showed that police violence was a leading cause of death of young men in the United States with black men 2.5 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than white men.
COVID-19 has claimed thousands of lives, and yet many patients do recover. As the pandemic continues, researchers are discovering more about what this recovery looks like and what kinds of medical challenges it involves. Reynold Panettieri, a pulmonologist and vice-chancellor of Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine, appears on CNN’s Coronavirus Fact vs. Fiction with Dr. Sanjay Gupta to describe what many COVID-19 patients face after they have stabilized. Panetteri expresses concern about “a marked attenuation in [patients’] quality of life and functional status. We would not have predicted that.”
A Washington Post article explores legal questions pertaining to COVID-19 transmission in American workplaces. Assuming an employee did become infected at work, would that be provable? Would it be grounds for a lawsuit? “In an ordinary torts case, you simply have to show the defendant was negligent,” says Rutgers Law School professor Adam Scales. “In a tort case against your employer, it’s a higher standard.” Scales adds that “most employment-related injuries do not involve negligence by the employer” and describes ways in which the workers’ compensation system is preferable to the civil court system for addressing health complaints.
The Washington Post | What happens if you get coronavirus at work? Experts say it might be hard to prove
A Star-Ledger editorial explains the need for contact tracing and spotlights Rutgers School of Public Health as key to the success of New Jersey’s tracing program. The school is helping to enlist and train up to 5,000 field operatives. Dean Perry Halkitis is quoted: “You cannot open society without contact tracing—that would be like opening the floodgates without any method to contain the flood. What contact tracing does is lessen the flow of a broken dam and allows the water to trickle in, instead of rushing in and destroying everything in its path.”
The Star-Ledger | If a virus detective calls, don’t hang up. Your life may depend on it
New Political Realities
So-called “guardian women” are the new “soccer moms”—women whose political affiliation can swing between liberal and conservative. Susan J. Carroll, a senior scholar at Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics, says there is a history of labeling these voters based on their concern for the security of their families. “The idea was they were focused on their children…and keeping their children safe,” Carroll tells NPR.
Antifa, the anti-fascist movement reviled by President Trump, is not widely understood. How did it begin? Does it prescribe violence, or is there a non-violent component to antifa activities? Mark Bray, a history professor in the School of Arts and Sciences, contributes his insight to a nuanced Vox report on this loosely organized, grassroots group. “They believe, and I think rightly so, that fascism and proximate far-right politics are inherently aggressive,” says Bray, “and that, if you’re not ready to defend yourself in advance, it may be too late when the time comes.”
Vox | Antifa, explained
Many people are likely missing the idle workplace banter they used to take for granted. New research shows that office chitchat is actually a big morale booster, says Jessica Methot, an associate professor at Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations. She discusses a study she conducted on workplace small talk with The New York Times, saying, “What we found was that the employees who engaged in more small talk—it didn’t matter with whom—ended up feeling more positive emotions. It made them feel more recognized, more acknowledged, and gave them a sense of connection with people.”
The New York Times | Not so small talk