RUSA plans to restructure, unite U. student body
In an effort to make student government more effective, the Rutgers University Student Assembly is implementing a new constitution that consolidates all of the campus councils into one large governing body.
The constitution would have to go through a referendum process, where the RUSA body and students will vote on whether to adopt the new regulations.
"Student government wants to consolidate the campus councils into RUSA, and through that we need to write a new constitution and pass it through referendum," said Josh Slavin, RUSA member and student representative for the Board of Trustees.
Members will hold a possible RUSA Town Hall meeting on March 11, where the student body can give their feedback on the new constitution.
The key difference in the new document is that all members of the campus councils will be members of RUSA rather than their own separate entities.
"For example, if you're elected to the Busch Campus Council, you're actually serving as a member of RUSA [to assist] the Busch [campus student body]," said RUSA Chair Werner Born.
Slavin, a Livingston College senior, said under the new constitution, members would not have to attend as many meetings, allowing members to have more free time. He said it would also assure that conflicting decisions are not made behind closed doors, and that students have a more transparent understanding of what student government is doing.
"Now you have almost 10 or 11 people meeting every week," he said. "It makes it hard for students to know what student government is doing for them, it makes it hard for students to know who to listen to, because you can have [campus councils] saying one thing and RUSA saying another."
Slavin said there have been times when the campus councils made decisions that RUSA did not agree with, and this confused the student body.
"Right now student government is broken up into a lot of different parts. At times councils have passed conflicting resolutions, and that won't happen anymore," he said. "Now RUSA will speak as the voice of all of the students on the New Brunswick /Piscataway [campuses]."
According to the RUSA constitution appendix, presidents of campus councils and the RUSA chair have agreed that a more consolidated form of student government would give RUSA a more powerful voice in dealing with University administration.
"A resolution passed by a single student government representing all undergraduate students at Rutgers University carried far more weight than a resolution passed by one council out of seven representing only the students of that campus," according to the report.
By consolidating, money would be saved on expenses, including training retreats and co-sponsorships, according to the report.
Some campus council members are upset about the consolidation, arguing the campuses could sink into one large governing body and leave many voices unheard.
"The solution reached was to ensure that representatives would continue to be elected and organized around their campus in a new council system that existed purely as an organ of RUSA," according to the report.
Student Representative for the Board of Governors Eric Kaplan said the Douglass Governing Council and the University College Council will still operate as separate governing bodies since both serve special student groups, Douglass Residential College and non-traditional students, respectively.
He said these councils focus on specific groups, and their decisions may not always affect the general student body, so they will not overlap with RUSA's decisions.
"We have a number of overlapping campus councils that don't always communicate and sometimes send contradicting messages," said Kaplan, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "It will decrease redundancy and increase coordination among student leaders."
Slavin said before the constitution is made public, RUSA wants to review it and come to a final consensus.
"We want to talk about and be informed about it before we have people vote on it," he said.
Born, a School of Engineering senior, said he thinks it will help more students get involved in RUSA, and the governing body will be more democratic, allowing students to elect the RUSA president and chair and contribute more to the decisions made.
"Last year, we saw that a lot of students really had a lot of interest on how we run student government," Born said. "It's really hard to try and get everyone's ideas … [and] to try and find a middle ground."