RUSA candidates share platform agendas
April showers bring May flowers, as well as this year’s Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) elections.
RUSA presidential hopefuls Matt Panconi and Justin Lucero, and vice presidential candidates Brianna Battle and Luke Svasti, reviewed their platforms for the 2015-2016 school year at the Student Graduate Lounge in the College Avenue Student Center yesterday evening.
The Rutgers Students United ticket, composed of Panconi, Battle and treasure candidate Vishal Patel, went head-to-head with the Rutgers Alliance ticket, consisting of Justin Lucero, Luke Svasti and treasurer candidate Brianna Nema.
The elections will take place April 4 to April 8. Public safety on campus, shared governance and mental health services were just a few of the platforms candidates were running on.
Panconi, a Rutgers Business School junior and current RUSA chair of Student Affairs, said he first joined RUSA as the Cook Campus Chair during his first year at Rutgers.
His ultimate goal as president is to achieve shared governance and create a connected student body. The best way to lower the cost of tuition, increase public safety and improve the overall college experience at Rutgers is by uniting the different organizations on campus, Panconi said.
“This student body is very disconnected,” Panconi said. “We really need to reach out to major organizations on campus and have them start working together and making everything more of a joint effort.”
RUSA tends to wait for students to share their concerns, rather than reach out directly to students, he said. As president, Panconi plans to increase tabling, Facebook monitoring and office hours.
“We need to represent students to the best of our ability," he said. "This past year, once a month, I would bring in the presidents of all the governing councils and have open discussions ... and start sponsoring town halls together."
Lucero, the opposing presidential candidate and current RUSA treasurer, has been involved on campus in a variety of ways, from serving as an Honors Program Ambassador to acting as an Orientation Team Leader.
Lucero, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, has instituted change on campus by helping pass the preferred-name policy, advocating for professors to be more conscious when assigning expensive textbooks and increasing co-sponsorship between RUSA and other organizations.
One of the biggest platforms Lucero is running on is enhancing student services, specifically Counseling and Psychological Services.
“Mental health is an issue that plagues college students,” he said. “It’s time to expand CAPS services … CAPS is consistently understaffed and does not have the capacity to serve 60,000 students.”
It is imperative to address the substance abuse issues at Rutgers, when many crime alerts are drug-related, Lucero said. Forty percent of college students indulge in binge drinking and the problem is impacting student health, he said.
“It is important to create a nurturing, safe and inclusive environment at Rutgers,” he said.
Alongside Lucero, Svasti is running for vice president on the Rutgers Student Alliance ticket.
Svasti, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and current Legislative Affairs chairperson for RUSA, said he plans to create sign-up sheets for different projects that RUSA handles, from sexual assault to issues with Sakai.
"I want to give students flexibility," he said. "I want to put up a sign-up sheet for students to choose what project they want."
Both Battle and Svasti agreed reducing the cost of tuition, increasing safety and promoting student voices need to be addressed by RUSA in the coming year.
Battle, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and current Student Senate Majority Leader for the Rutgers University Senate, said she is especially concerned with public safety at Rutgers. "RU Fan" is a system in place at the University that runs exclusively during football season, in which students can text RUPD if they witness any suspicious activity or feel uncomfortable.
"We want to make sure this is available for the entirety of the year, not just football season, so our students have complete access to (the) RUPD," she said.
The treasurer candidates also added their two cents during the forum. Both candidates agreed it is important for RUSA to cut public relations spending.
The two treasurer candidates shared their experiences managing and creating budgets.
Patel, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and current University Senate's Budget and Finance committee member, noted that many people are unhappy with the $36 million deficit on athletic spending.
"One of the charters (the University Senate) wrote last week was on athletics," he said. "... We devised a suggestion for President Barchi that would reduce the deficit from $36 million to, I believe, $20 million."
In addition to the unnecessary money being funneled into the Athletics Department, Patel said he looks forward to cutting costs for RUSA.
Nema, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she plans to pinpoint the areas where RUSA is overspending and cut spending in those areas.
"We are going to work out different ways of understanding the budget and finding a way to make sure all funds are utilized correctly," Nema said.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article said Matt Panconi is a School of Arts and Sciences junior.