September 19, 2018 | ° F

RUSA considers privacy committee

Photo by Jared Miller |

Don Heilman, director of Student Legal Services, talks about the availability of free or inexpensive legal services newly offered by the University at last night's RUSA meeting.

The Rutgers University Student Assembly took steps last night to address issues of privacy on campus, debating the creation of an ad-hoc committee on student privacy.

RUSA President Yousef Saleh said the creation of the ad-hoc committee is necessary to review privacy rules at the University, especially after the death of University first-year student Tyler Clementi.

Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 23 after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, streamed his sexual encounter with another man over the Internet.

Saleh said this cannot happen again.

Photo: Jared Miller

Matthew Cordiero, Rutgers University Student Assembly vice president, discusses the possibilities of establishing an ad-hoc committee to review privacy at last night's meeting.

"There has been some uneasiness as to what are the rules of the residence halls and what can people use against you if they look you up on Facebook," said Saleh, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. "We definitely need to clear the air, especially after this incident."

The goal of the committee is to investigate and review University policies and practices of dealing with student space, considering many students do not know what the rules are, said Kristen Clarke, University Affairs chair.  

"We are going to be working with [resident assistants], as well as Residence Life. They are all people who need to be involved in this," said Clarke, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "It's really seeing what the information that everybody involved has and making sure everybody is on the same page."

RUSA originally planned on creating a committee to address the unclear rules with drug and alcohol use for University students, but privacy rules brought up similar issues, she said.

"Students didn't know if [the Rutgers University Police Department] could come into their dorm rooms. They didn't know if [resident assistants] could come into their dorm room and they didn't know what to do after that," she said. "The same thing was happening with student privacy in general."

Clarke said it is not just the issue of students fully understanding certain rules at the University but administrators making those rules well known, citing the Good Samaritan law as an example.

"If you're underage and one of your friends is dying because they've had too much to drink, you can call [RUPD] and not get in trouble," she said. "I think that's going to be something that will come up in discussions."

Because of recent events at the University, privacy became an issue of concern for students, and the committee is just looking for inefficiencies in the rules, said Matthew Cordeiro, RUSA vice president.

"I think it is totally appropriate for a body that is supposed to represent students to have this authority," said Cordeiro, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "Things may need to be changed. It is trying to create a committee to review privacy and maybe update it."

Although no members of RUSA were against the creation of the committee, some did not know if it was necessary to create a new committee.

Morgan Sills, RUSA public relations committee member, said the initiative to educate students about rules pertaining to privacy is a good idea but was unsure about creating more work for RUSA with a separate committee.

"I don't know if we need to make an actual committee. I think it would be great to create a committee within the arms of University Affairs," said Mills, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "I'm not sure we need to make the move for an entire commitment."

Saleh attempted to ease Mills' concern by noting the committee would not be permanent.

"It's a fact-finding committee, and they are going to be giving us a report after their fact-finding session," he said. "After that, the committee will be dissolved."

After the report is delivered, RUSA would be able to address the University about problems both the organization and students have, Saleh said.

"If there is anything that we disagree with in terms of privacy policy at Rutgers, then we can stand up and push for change," he said.

The creation of the privacy committee was not the only thing on RUSA's agenda, with 90 percent of the members voting to conduct Every Drop Counts blood drive.

RUSA held this event for the first time last year to serve dual purposes — to donate blood and protest, Clarke said.

"The [Food and Drug Administration] has had [a rule] in effect since 1983, stating that men who have sex with men are ineligible to donate blood," she said. "This was put into effect back in the '80s when no one really knew what was going on with AIDS."

The rule has still not been repealed and many people think it is a highly discriminatory policy, Clarke said.

Clarke added students would also be able to sign petitions for a friend who is ineligible and can also donate as a protest to the FDA rule.

"The University was questioning whether or not they should still allow blood drives on campus and other universities have banned blood drives because of this discrimination," she said. "RUSA voted we should continue to have blood drives because it would be a waste to not allow blood banks collect blood from us."

Don Heilman, director of Student Legal Services, also came to talk about the opening of free or inexpensive legal services for University students.  After developing facilities and an action plan, the University is now able to deliver a service he called "long overdue."

"Rutgers University has officially joined the ranks of the big time. We now have student legal services," he said. "We have a law firm for students and you can come see me for about any legal issue, problem, question for free."

A trial lawyer for 20 years who is also working toward his doctorate in education, Heilman created an interlocking referral network of lawyers in case he is unable to help the student with their legal problem.

"If I can't help to resolve your problem, I'm going to place you with an attorney or law firm who has agreed in advance to help and, 90 percent of the time, for free," he said.

Heilman said these services can be found at his office, which is located on 12 Lafayette St.

Devin Sikorski

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