RUSA retreat effective
This past weekend, the members of the Rutgers University Student Assembly returned from their three?day retreat, which had been scrutinized as a poor use of resources. The initial $20,000 price tag led to confusion regarding the interests of the assembly during these precarious economic times. It was understood that the retreat would be taking place away from the University, that it would involve providing members with food and lodging and, rather than being considered an opportunity to improve student government, the retreat was regarded as a vacation for its members.
I would like to say that the majority of our bonding occurred over daiquiris on a beach somewhere, but that would be far from the truth. Instead we were taken to Happiness is Camping, in Hardwick, NJ, on yellow school buses, where we braved the rain during team-building activities and frequent trips between the recreation room and mess hall. The camp is used in the summer to host children with cancer and allows various groups to come during the off-season to use their facilities. Suffice to say we were not greeted with leis and keys to the mini bar. The initial figure that was quoted was an estimate that would allow for all 150 members of the assembly to attend, that is, everyone from each campus council, professional school council, et cetera. Only about one-third of those people actually attended the retreat, making it cost less, but the real value of the retreat was in what opportunities it granted us as assembly members to improve student government.
As members of the assembly and campus and professional school councils, we attend multiple meetings each week. There are general body meetings, committee meetings and Executive Board meetings. Hours are poured into our attempts as representatives to respond to the needs of the student body. We cannot be nearly as successful at this as we hope to be, however, if we do not have positive, established working relationships with one another and if we do not properly understand the assembly's various aspects. Both of these elements were emphasized at the retreat, as we spent our time discussing the structure of the assembly, what we think should change and what would make us more effective. We thought about the reasons we joined the assembly and what our responsibilities as members are. We reviewed how to write resolutions and viewed presentations about parliamentary procedure and assembly allocations.
We promised that this retreat would yield the benefit of having a more cohesive, cooperative student government, and now that it is over, that promise has come to fruition. While the retreat was still in progress, members from different councils, who would have otherwise not known one another, began planning meetings for later in the week. It is not our intention as members of the assembly to attend meeting after meeting only for the sake of novelty. Our objective is to provide a vehicle for students to voice their concerns. We as students pay far more for our educations here than any retreat with or without daiquiris could ever cost. It is in our interest, then, to have the strongest assembly possible, so that our questions are not just responded to, but answered, and our concerns are addressed.
Michelle Coleman is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.