RUSA disputes over conflicting meetings


Some members of the Rutgers University Student Assembly are questioning the process and efficiency of the meal sign-away program, following Thursday night's meeting when a charitable organization for the program was picked.

Internal Affairs Chair John Aspray said the problem with the meal sign-away program sparks from poor planning, describing the meeting on Thursday night as rushed.

"It's poor planning for logistical issues," said Aspray, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. "It would have been nice if people had a little bit more of a warning. The process is just being rushed."

But RUSA President Yousef Saleh said although there was a miscommunication with meeting times, the process for the meal sign-away program was far from rushed.

"The idea that this was rushed is as preposterous as health care reform was jammed down everyone's throat," said Saleh, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. "In fact, the meal sign-away was delayed a little bit in pursuit of other initiatives."

Saleh said he was upset when members did not want to take part in the meeting, but Aspray said this was due to committee meetings and the meal sign-away meeting conflicting in times.

"I'm not sure if [Saleh] realized how much work we need to get done during committee [meetings]," he said. "I don't think he realized that we have committee meetings up until 9:30 p.m. or even 10 p.m. sometimes just to get stuff done."

This led to many members choosing to do their committee work over attending the meeting for a program RUSA does jointly with dining services at the University, Aspray said.

"One element of it is that a bunch of people ran for RUSA on action-oriented platforms," he said. "They wanted to get that work done opposed to acting as a legislative decision making body, especially on a night when it was committee work."

RUSA member Dan Herbert said he did not have a major problem with the timing of the meeting but felt it was poorly communicated, which led to poor attendance.

"There were very few top-level RUSA announcements saying everybody must attend this meeting," said Herbert, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. "So it left a lot of decisions up to people who really didn't have too much of a call in this situation."

Although the meeting for the meal sign-away program did occur at an odd time, RUSA Vice-President Matthew Cordeiro said things come up that just need immediate attention.

"We had the meal sign-away and we decided to take care of it," said Cordeiro, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "Some things just happen on a tight schedule but everything that needed to get done did get done."

But Aspray said the timing of the meeting is an example of how the meal sign-away process needs retooling, calling inefficiencies as not a lack of but a "weakness of institutional memory."

"For example, I am going over re-writing the standing rules," he said. "[When finished], rules will include that these things should happen on a certain schedule in order to make sure they get done in the most fluid way possible."

An element of these rewritten standing rules will be that a time will be designated specifically for the meal sign-away program, which will prevent negative effects from poor planning, Aspray said.

"We need to plan ahead a little more so we can know what we have to vote on the next meeting as opposed to having an emergency meeting at 8:30 p.m. during our committee meetings," he said.

Another issue of focus for Aspray is the initial selection process when leaders in RUSA convene to determine what organizations will be considered for the meal sign-away program.

"It's an important thing to have oversight [for this] but the process is still somewhat shrouded in mystery from the top-down," he said.

The initial meeting for the selection process is between representatives in the Leadership Cabinet and various caucus leaders, whose decision then goes to the full body of RUSA to determine who will receive the opportunity to fundraise, Saleh said.

Cordeiro said RUSA members have been vocal about their disappointment with this selection process and are unsure why they cannot deliver input.

"[Members say] RUSA only picks on the top two. What happens to everyone else and who gets to decide that?" he said.

Herbert voiced this concern by saying many RUSA members are unsure about the initial selection process and the only word to describe it is "awkward."

"Somewhere out there, there is a committee that decides who the final two candidates are and then all of us have to sit in a room and [make the decision]," he said. "It just feels like you are giving somebody the shaft."

But this is just one of many elements of the meal sign-away program deemed as inefficient and require retooling, Aspray said.

One of these questions for some members is whether it is possible and beneficial to have two charitable organizations fundraising during a semester. Aspray said this would provide more options for students and would increase the ability to fundraise during the program.

"Overall there would be more donations going to these causes," he said. "I think there would need to be an oversight process of selecting it, but I think it would be great."

Saleh agreed with the notion of having two groups take part in the meal sign-away program, but said that would be the maximum allowed.

"If we had three, it would be ridiculous and then people would be competing for meal swipes," he said. "It's not right to the organization that they would have to split the amount of money capable of being donated [among three groups]."

But Herbert said it would be counterproductive for a program that only takes place once a semester.

"[It] would divide funding between organizations and that doesn't help anybody either," he said.

Cordeiro said RUSA could reexamine whether it would be beneficial to have two groups fundraising simultaneously but addressed that the decision would not be easy.

"You're trying to balance creating competition over giving more people access to this great fundraising tool," he said. "But I think it could be re-looked at so we could find a more efficient and better way to go about it."


Devin Sikorski

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