Call to action: Rock the RUSA vote
Editorial | RUSA approval of Rice indicates lack of student representation
Whenever election season comes around, it brings with it the usual reminders (and arguments) about civic responsibility and the importance of recognizing our own political efficacy. From April 6 to April 8, the Rutgers University Student Assembly will be holding elections for the upcoming academic year — and yes, we are here to tell you that you need to do your part and vote.
We should take advantage of this opportunity to have a direct impact on decisions that are made on our behalf regarding important issues around campus. Although it can be difficult at times to see the significance of our votes in gubernatorial or presidential elections, these RUSA elections are as close to home as you can get — so your individual vote really does make a difference in who is representing you and how you are being represented.
Last Thursday night, RUSA held a vote to decide whether or not they should take a stance on the University’s highly controversial invitation to Condoleezza Rice to speak at this year’s commencement ceremony. The arguments that have presented themselves on the Opinions page from students, faculty, alumni and other members of the community over the last few months are a testament to the fact that there is definitely not a solid stance on the issue. The Rutgers University Debate Union was present at the RUSA meeting to argue both sides of the issue before the resolution was voted on — it is very clear that this is a controversial topic. As an editorial board, we are opposed to having Rice speak at commencement, as we would be to any other politician. Due to the nature of a commencement ceremony, an event hosted for all members of the graduating class, Rice is not an appropriate speaker — her invitation to speak would be acceptable for any other venue at the University. The question is, though, how representative is RUSA of the entire student body if they decided not only to take a stance on this issue, but also to “join the Board of Governors in welcoming Condoleezza Rice … as the Keynote Speaker at Rutgers’ 248th Commencement?” During Thursday’s discussion, the student representative to the Board of Governors claimed that he is “in favor of her coming to campus because most of the 2014’s [class] want her to come to campus,” but how exactly did he or RUSA come to that conclusion?
While every side of the debate over this issue is certainly entitled to their opinions, RUSA simply does not have the level of communication with students that it needs in order to make this kind of claim. How much feedback do they really get from the student body? Yes, the channels of communication are open: We can visit the office, call or email with questions and concerns at anytime — the basic expectations of any organization. But even if these channels exist, that isn’t enough. In order for a properly functioning student government that is directly representative of its constituents to exist, there has to be more outreach to bring in student feedback.
We want to participate in these elections, and we highly encourage the rest of the student body to vote, too. But frankly, RUSA doesn’t make it that easy to make an informed decision. While we understand that it is an individual responsibility to take initiative and learn about the process and the candidates, it’s difficult for the average college student to constantly be aware of this between our busy schedules. Representatives and executive board members of RUSA should be very public figures on campus, but in reality, there are few people who even know why RUSA exists. And if we want any of this to change, the first step we can take is to take the time this week to learn about the different candidates’ platforms and vote.