Controversy remains despite RUSA retreat cost reduction
Those who went to the Rutgers University Student Assembly's retreat consider it a success, but some think it is too early to say.
The assembly went to their annual retreat last weekend amid criticism from students at the declared maximum price of the retreat. If all 150 members went to the retreat, it would have cost $20,000, but not everyone made it.
"The retreat was great," RUSA Chair Werner Born said. "The difference between the bus ride up and back was phenomenal. When we went up, councils stuck with each other very closely, but by the end of the weekend everybody was spread out and mixed up. We also had excellent involvement from the freshmen and sophomores."
There really was no wasteful spending, Born said. Student Life paid for transportation to keep costs low.
"We took yellow school buses as I promised, and the food couldn't be called anything but camp food," Born said. "All together this was a weekend that student government successfully used as a rally point."
The final cost of the retreat was less than $12,000, which was 40 percent of last year's cost, he said. Eleven organizations were involved with the meeting, as opposed to last year's five campus councils and the University College community.
The Assembly funded the retreat through University student fees, said University Affairs Chair Ben West in an editorial.
But others do not think it is acceptable to say it was successful, because if the student representatives did attend, the retreat would have cost the full $20,000 price.
"I do not think that it is kosher to take credit for cutting costs just because two-thirds of the student reps didn't show up," West said. "What should be happening instead is that we should question whether these retreats, which we can now see only garner one-third of the [assembly] body's attendance, should ever be pursued again."
He quoted Assembly Public Relations Chair Michelle Coleman's editorial, "RUSA retreat effective," citing that one-third of the 150 members invited went to the meeting. In last week's meeting, Born said 88 members confirmed to attend the retreat.
"I did not go to the retreat. I have, however, heard mixed feedback. The negative feedback has mostly been anonymous," said West, a Rutgers College senior. "Also, I continue to stand by my belief that as much, if not more, could have been accomplished had we stayed on campus."
He said those who went on the retreat may have had a good time, but an on-campus retreat may have garnered a little more than 30 percent attendance.
But among those who did go, the student leaders were satisfied with their experience.
"It was very effective," said Busch Campus Council President Shaival Shah, a Rutgers College senior. "A lot of members really got to know each other, every single person fully understand student government and what it means to represent students. A majority of the members that were silent are now much more active and expressive."
When asked about what kind of activities the camp had, Internal Affairs Chair Josh Slavin said it was mostly teambuilding exercises such as using tools to cross a river and making a human knot where people hold hands and then untie themselves.
"The retreat was a success. We mostly did parliamentary procedure and RUSA-related stuff. We worked from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. doing work, only breaking for meals," said Slavin, a Livingston College senior.
University-related training exercises included broad topics, such as how to write an effective resolution, parliamentary procedure and group discussions on the future of student government.
"We had a great deal of training sessions. These included the excellent "True Colors" personality training seminar," said Born, a School of Engineering senior. "We also participated in team-building exercises the camp runs, which were mostly physical challenges that would really poke your brain to figure out new ways to work together."
With "What's On Your Mind?" month coming to a close with RUSA's town hall meeting on Nov. 5 featuring University President Richard L. McCormick and several of the vice presidents, Born said the improved relations between councils should become evident quickly.