Rutgers-Newark landmark to be named after the late Supreme Court Justice and former Rutgers law professor
Rutgers University will name a landmark residence hall at Rutgers-Newark for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rutgers Board of Governors announced today.
The board unanimously approved renaming 15 Washington Street, a 17-story neoclassical icon of the Newark skyline, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall to honor the renowned and trailblazing jurist whose lifelong pursuit for equal rights and justice began as a faculty member at Rutgers Law School in Newark, where she taught from 1963 to 1972.
While at Rutgers, Ginsburg pioneered teaching women’s rights with a seminar on the law and gender equality. Ginsburg also began to build the legal framework that would lead her to successfully argue landmark gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, which she joined as the second woman justice in 1993.
“When I think of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I hope future generations will understand her perseverance, her clear-eyed pursuit of justice and equity, and her care for those people who are often seen as voiceless or without history,” Rutgers president Jonathan Holloway said. “These are the principles that Ginsburg stood for. I think they are the principles that Rutgers stands for, and I’d love for future generations to understand how they are connected in that way.”
The newly named Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall was home to the law school for nearly a quarter of a century after Ginsburg left Rutgers. It is now home to 330 graduate and undergraduate students, including 100 law students, as well as the residence of Rutgers-Newark chancellor Nancy Cantor.
Cantor, who wrote the proposal to name the building following the justice’s death on Sept. 18, 2020, noted Ginsburg’s identity sharply reflects the institution’s.
“Justice Ginsburg’s steadfast commitment to social justice and equal treatment under the law, and to training future generations of change-makers, is precisely at the core of the institutional identity of Rutgers Law School in Newark and of Rutgers-Newark more generally,” she said. “We live that every day, in our commitment to creating social mobility and in our work in Newark and beyond as an anchor institution, collaborating in the community, across sectors, for equitable growth and opportunity.”
Rutgers Board of Governors chair Mark Angelson said Rutgers is proud of Justice Ginsburg’s legacy at the university and that naming the landmark building at Rutgers-Newark for her will ensure her name lives on at Rutgers. “Justice Ginsburg’s tireless pursuit of justice and equity reflects Rutgers’ ongoing commitment to those very same goals,” he said.
Ginsburg remained connected to Rutgers throughout her life after leaving the university, maintaining close contact with faculty colleagues and students whom she taught and mentored.
Jane Ginsburg, the justice’s daughter, said her family is honored a building will be named after her mother at Rutgers-Newark.
“Rutgers was one of the very few U.S. law schools willing in the 1960s to hire women, or minorities,” said Ginsburg, a law professor at Columbia Law School. “It is particularly appropriate that the university that gave Mother her start in law teaching would commemorate that association in such a tangible way.”
In her keynote address at the 1999 dedication of the law school’s current home at the Center for Law and Justice at 123 Washington Street, Ginsburg identified herself with the school’s long-standing tradition of scholarship, teaching, and advocacy for the rights of all people, especially groups subject to discrimination, such as women and members of ethnic and racial minorities.
Reporting on her remarks that day, The Star-Ledger wrote that she “praised Rutgers for promoting diversity and sticking with affirmative action and its minority student programs.” Referring to the law school’s Minority Student Program, Ginsburg said, “I am pleased to say I had a hand in developing that program when I served on the Rutgers faculty.”
Later, as Rutgers celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016, Ginsburg recalled drawing inspiration from her law students. “Rutgers students sparked my interest and aided in charting the course I then pursued,” she said. “Less than three years after starting the seminar, I was arguing gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court.”
During her tenure at Rutgers, in addition to being a highly popular professor, Ginsburg was the inaugural adviser to the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first law journal in the United States focused on issues of gender equality and justice and established by law students.
After her death in September following recurring battles with cancer, Ginsburg became the first woman and first Jewish American to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol. Her loss was met with an outpouring of grief at Rutgers along with fond recollections and admiration.
Elizabeth Langer, 1974 law school graduate and first editor-in-chief of the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, recalled Ginsburg’s support of the students who founded the journal. “She gave us credibility. Gave us legitimacy,” Langer said. “And she shepherded us through, along with a lot of enthusiastic law students. Mostly women.”
In his reflection shared with the Rutgers Law School, Newark community, co-dean David Lopez wrote: “She will be remembered as a legal giant…She made this country better. Her tenacity, intelligence, and empathy for the voiceless inspired so many in this nation, including so many of us, to become attorneys. Everyone in our law school community stands on her shoulders!”
The building that will bear the name Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall faces Washington Park, soon to be renamed Harriet Tubman Square, according to Newark mayor Ras J. Baraka. Cantor finds the convergence of these two pioneering women’s legacies particularly compelling.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall is a home to students who represent precisely the breathtaking diversity of people whom our nation needs to realize their full potential—a realization dependent in no small part upon making good on America’s promise of equal justice under the law,” Cantor said.
“In an era when our nation is experiencing an unprecedented surge in awareness of who among us continue to be left behind in so many domains of public and private life and how far we have to go to achieve our nation’s promise of genuinely equal justice under the law, the case for naming a building for Ginsburg is more than strikingly appropriate,” Cantor said. “It is urgent.”