More time needed for RUSA constitution changes
Did you know the Rutgers University Student Assembly planned to vote on a newly proposed constitution on Thursday, which, if approved, would have only required support from only 2 percent of Rutgers students to be adopted by RUSA? Do you even know what RUSA is? Don't worry if your answer is "no," you are not alone — most students have no idea that Rutgers has a student assembly.
Why should you even care about what RUSA is? The answer is quite simple: The assembly is the organization responsible for representing all University students. It not only represents you to the Rutgers administration, but is also engages in such activities as legislative outreach and the allocation of funds to student organizations on your behalf. It is responsible for voicing your complaints and concerns, and for making sure that they are addressed.
The constitution that the assembly adopts will largely determine how RUSA will continue to serve as a representative body. My question for you is this: How can a representative body even consider adopting a constitution that barely any of its constituents have contributed to, let alone know about?
The assembly did not hold a forum regarding the proposed constitution until a week before it planned to vote on it. RUSA did not make an honest attempt, until late January, to include other student organizations and everyday students in the process of creating its constitution, which was, for the most part, drafted by only two students in a University of 26,691 undergraduates. To sum it up, RUSA, a supposedly representative body, did not do its best in representing you, and 26,690 other students at the University.
As a member of RUSA, I can attest that my colleagues are some of Rutgers' hardest-working students, but the recent actions of some of the assembly's members constitutes, in my view, a major oversight on their part that nearly resulted in a flaw of fatal proportions, representing a total lack of respect for our role as democratically-elected representatives of a pluralistic student body.
The vote on the proposed constitution has thankfully been postponed due the pressure of students and representatives who were there to voice these concerns at the eleventh hour. What is now needed is a vision for the future — a vision that actually includes you and the 26,690 other students that the assembly is supposed to represent. Of course, some much agreed-upon changes should be made immediately to ensure that our elections are more democratic than before. Other than that, we should wait until next semester to begin anew, making it our primary aim to ensure that you will be included in the renewed process.
What should be done this semester is this: First, we should make sure that our two highest leadership positions — chair and vice chair — are directly elected by amending our current constitution. That way we can ensure that the assembly is headed by the leaders you choose. Secondly, we should amend our constitution to increase our provisional amendment period by one more year. Without doing so, we will be unable to consider a newer and better constitution because we will be limited to creating constitutional amendments after the provisional period expires this year.
These are, however, the only changes that we should make to our constitution for now. The reason for this is that time is no longer on our side. Elections for assembly positions are just around the corner, so if we were to consider a constitution now, we would have to hastily approve it within a month so that RUSA's new structure would be established before the election. This would not allow us to engage in a University-wide dialogue that would enable us to forge a document that all students can agree upon.
Next year, the assembly can do more. It can ensure that there are an adequate number of opportunities for students like you to voice their opinions from the get-go. It can do this through multiple, well-publicized forums beginning in September, and through a newly-established Constitutional Review Committee that will keep an up-to-date public record of its progress online and be open to suggestions from the public during the forums. RUSA can reach out to The Daily Targum to ensure coverage of these events while they unfold. By taking these steps, we will not only have a constitution that we can all be proud of, but also a strong representative body that gets it work done on behalf of the pluralistic body of hard-working students that it represents.
Ben West is a Rutgers College junior majoring in political science. He is a member of the Rutgers University Student Assembly as the chair of the University affairs committee. He is also a University senator.