Rutgers University dedicated 15 Washington Street, a neoclassical icon of the Newark skyline, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall on Thursday in honor of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice, who taught at Rutgers Law School from 1963 to 1972.
The dedication ceremony featured remarks by President Jonathan Holloway, Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Board of Governors chair Mark Angelson, interim Law School Co-Dean Rose Cuison-Villazor and was attended by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s daughter, Jane Ginsburg.
“In naming this space for her, we embrace Justice Ginsburg’s commitment to equal justice under the law, her fearlessness in pursuit of a better life for women and for those who have faced hardship and discrimination, and her clear-eyed understanding that we still have so much work ahead in achieving the promise of America,” Holloway said. “The reason we have made progress in addressing unfairness and injustice in our nation – whether emancipation or suffrage or civil rights or women’s rights – is because of courageous people like her, people looking beyond their own interest and serving the greater good like Ruth Bader Ginsburg did with such intelligence, passion, wit and grace.”
Last fall, the Rutgers Board of Governors unanimously approved renaming the 17-story landmark residence hall at Rutgers University-Newark in honor of the trailblazing jurist who died in September 2020 following recurring bouts of cancer. The newly-named Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall was home to Rutgers Law School for nearly a quarter century after Ginsburg left Rutgers. It is now home to 330 graduate and undergraduate students, including 100 law students and is the residence of Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Cantor.
“It is rare that one gets the privilege of dedicating a grand space in one’s university to one who so changed the face of history, and who began that journey in part right here, teaching women’s rights law at Rutgers Law School-Newark,” Cantor said. “And what could be more fitting than for a building named for Justice Ginsburg to be home to hundreds of members of diverse new generations of changemakers?”
In a video in celebration of Rutgers’ 250th anniversary in 2016, Justice Ginsburg reflected on how female law students at Rutgers inspired her to become a champion of gender issues after several students asked if the school could offer a seminar on women and the law. Less than three years after starting the seminar, Justice Ginsburg was arguing gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court.
“Justice Ginsburg is an icon of the gender equality movement akin to Susan B. Anthony, and a role model for us all,” Angelson said. “We are honored by her association with Rutgers and delighted to honor her in this way.”
Thursday’s dedication ceremony was held following a winter symposium by the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first journal in the United States dedicated to women’s rights law. The symposium honored Ginsburg, who served as the journal’s first advisor. The theme was “Feminism in the Law: An Exploration of Justice Ginsburg’s Legacy.”
Rutgers Law School associate dean of academic research centers, Suzanne Kim, moderated the symposium, which included legal scholars and law professors who attended in person and virtually.
Jane Ginsburg, a School of Columbia Law professor, gave opening remarks at the symposium and recalled how, in 1969, Rutgers law students asked then-Professor Ginsburg to teach a course on “Women and the Law.”
“That Rutgers student-initiated course set my mother on what became a celebrated path,” Ginsburg said, then read from her mother’s recollection of the time: “It is evident I was in the right place at the right time. Rutgers students sparked my interest and action. Faculty colleagues were supportive.”
Rachel Wainer Apter, director of the N.J. Division on Civil Rights, clerked for Justice Ginsburg and shared her reflections of Justice Ginsberg at the symposium.
“She recognized the humanity in every person that she met and sought to understand how their lived experiences impacted the ways in which they saw the world. Indeed, the justice had a rare gift of seeing the world through the eyes of others,” Apter said.
Rutgers Law professor Suzanne Kim, who previously served as advisor to the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, talked about the need to continue Justice Ginsburg’s work on gender equality.
“With the many gains formally we’ve achieved in the law, the pandemic reveals how much more work there is to do.”
Story originally appeared in Rutgers Today.