Tuesday, February 17, 2009

State University Dean Rubs Policy With U.S. Presidents & Presidential Candidate

By Sylver McGriff
Photo by Sylver McGriff

One man tapped for policy guidance by 2 U.S. presidents. Add a vice president, and a presidential candidate to the mix, and you have a veritable presidential magnet. His name is Jorge Reina Schement.

He wears a baseball cap. Which, as dean of Rutgers’ School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, no doubt makes students feel comfortable shooting the breeze with him. He wears a bow-tie as well, which may occasionally reel in the easy smile that plays at the corner of his mouth. “It’s an absolute pleasure working for Dean Schement,” his assistant, Kathy, enthuses. “...he has a gift of really relating to students, faculty, and staff.” And, apparently, to Presidents as well.

“I don’t really know why they chose me,” Schement muses modestly about being selected to work with the Obama Transition Team. “My research is in an area of policy called Universal Service Policy....an area encompassing the Federal Communications Commission...the White House and the Congress [which] attempts to make sure that as many Americans as possible can have access to the telecommunications network of the United States...[which] now includes broadband and internet access. Over the years, I have published widely in this area...about those groups that have not had as complete access as others, and how we can expand our policies to make sure that they have access.”

Schement’s books include such titles as: “Between Communication & Information,” “Encyclopedia of Communication & Information,” and “Tendencies & Tensions of the Information Age: The Production & Distribution of Information in the United States.”

During the last administration, Schement was a member of President Bush’s Presidential Technology Advisory Committee (PTAC). And he advised presidential candidate John McCain on telecommunications for Native Americans. “As a Senator from Arizona, McCain was very interested in that,” Schement recalls.

How is it that Schement is able to cross party lines in his advisory capacity? “It isn’t the case that we don’t cross lines and are completely partisan. I think [there is] an important service to provide regardless of who is in government. They may not be interested but that’s not my concern. My concern is to present what I know.”

As for Schement and Vice President Joseph Biden, they rubbed shoulders as well as policy talk for over a year on weekly Amtrak commutes to Washington during the time when then Delaware Senator Biden was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “I came away with a sense of him as being a very smart guy.” Schement commented.

An impression that also applies to Dean Schement, himself.

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