RUSA presidential hopefuls defend platforms pre-election
The Rutgers University Student Assembly holds its annual elections this Monday through Wednesday, giving University students an opportunity to vote for the next RUSA president online.
The presidential ticket also contains the positions of vice president and treasurer, the only other officer positions University students can decide on, according to RUSA’s constitution.
John Connelly, RUSA vice president, seeks to retain the presidency for the Rutgers United Party. His opponent is Scott Siegel, current RUSA treasurer, who represents the Old Raritan Party.
Also on the Rutgers United ticket is vice presidential candidate Sherif Ibrahim, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, and Pavel Sokolov, a Rutgers Business School sophomore, running for treasurer.
The Old Raritan ticket consists of vice presidential candidate Joe Fontana, a School of Arts and Science sophomore, and treasurer candidate Sabrina Arias, also a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
The presidential hopefuls have different views on what they want at the University and RUSA in the next academic year.
Connelly outlined the Rutgers United platform, emphasizing the party’s desire to create an affordable University education.
“[Rutgers United] is … working with lawmakers to make sure they’re thinking of students when they pass legislation related to higher education and working with Jack Molenaar on transportation related concerns,” he said.
If elected RUSA president, Connelly said he would begin early dialogues with the new University president and the Board of Governors, as well as increasing pressure in Trenton and mobilizing the student body.
A long-term goal for Rutgers United is incorporation, which would make RUSA independent from University Student Life, he said.
Siegel, on the other hand, said he is against incorporation, as it would have disastrous effects on the University.
“I think incorporation, at this point in time, is the worst possible thing RUSA could do,” he said. “Even if 10, 15 percent of the student population votes in this election, it doesn’t mean that RUSA has the support, the infrastructure and the reach of all the students at Rutgers to incorporate.”
Siegel said that he would possibly support incorporation down the road. But he feels RUSA’s infrastructure could not handle the change right now.
“RUSA is the student government of all Rutgers students, and it really should work to make the student experience the best that it possibly can be,” Siegel said.
The Old Raritan Party wants to hold the University to its promise of quality.
“That entails … holding the University accountable for ... the most cost-effective services possible [and] better institutionalizing RUSA on campus,” Siegel said. “All of us are really going to do our best to create a safe and comfortable campus for everybody.”
Siegel also said his party intends to increase the collaboration of student organizations and more camaraderie on campus.
While support in numbers may be in favor of the Rutgers United Party — which current RUSA President Matt Cordeiro is part of — Siegel said the Old Raritan Party is not focusing on the 36 to 16 representative difference between the parties.
“Thirty-six versus 16 aren’t great odds, but last year was similar numbers,” he said. “Last year, I ran with five other people, and I was able to win [treasurer].”
Connelly said he is not banking on his party’s strength in numbers.
“I think that you never assume that there is overwhelming support in an election,” he said. “When elected officials start doing that, they get corrupt and machine-y, and they stop acting in the interest of the people they were elected to serve.”
Cordeiro said he appreciates the time he spent over the past year as head of the student assembly and hopes the candidates understand the responsibilities involved with the position.
Cordeiro said the RUSA president has to act “as captain of the ship,” referring to the internal duties of the elected leader.
“You have to run RUSA as best as it can be. You have to deal with any disputes that come up in RUSA,” he said. “You’re in charge of the administrative function of RUSA, and you have to chair the meetings.”
Cordeiro admitted the job is a lot of pressure, and the RUSA presidential candidates have to be prepared for any situation.
“It can be really frustrating,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t have the breathing room you would like.”
Yet Cordeiro said the president is given leverage when dealing with state officials and the University administration as an elected official. The communication can make the job easier.
“It’s not perfect. Some legislators won’t listen to you no matter what you do or say, but I generally get a good response when I go down to talk with folks,” he said.