June 18, 2019 | 72° F

Student assembly passes bill to allow students to text RUPD

Photo by samantha casimir |

The University has taken numerous measures in response to crime around campus, from distributing window alarms to creating the College Avenue Priority Patrol.

To help further student safety, the Rutgers University Student Assembly passed a bill last night to fund a texting system that would allow students to text the police during emergencies.

“One thing all of you have a responsibility to do is combat the issue of students not feeling safe on campus,” said Mohamed Asker, commuter representative for RUSA. “This is one of the best ways of doing that.”

The system, which has a $15,000 estimated cost for the next semester, is being backed by multiple school organizations, including the Rutgers Business Governing Association, Rutgers Housing Association, SEBS Governing Council and the Rutgers Inter-Fraternity Council. These organizations collectively contributed $6,000.

“This is something that can make students safer. This is what RUSA should be investing in,” said Matt Panconi, president of RUSA.

The Rutgers Office of Student Affairs and University Affairs has been discussing the possibility of a texting system with the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) for the past three months. As per the 24/7 system, a chief security officer from the RUPD would monitor incoming texts continually.

With the enactment of a police texting system, students would have the opportunity to text the RUPD in situations where they are unable or uncomfortable to call the police.

The police texting system would be an extension of “RU Fan,” which is a texting system that allows students at football games to text the police.

“We want students to use that University-wide,” Panconi said.

The texting system is not meant to replace 911, but Panconi said it is instead meant to build off of 911. After next semester, which is the kick starter period, Asker said the University will pick up the tab and begin funding the system.

“If you’re walking home really late at night and you feel like you’re being followed, you may not feel comfortable calling the police. But maybe you’ll text the police,” Panconi said. “Or you’re out at a party and something is going wrong, you’re being peer pressured not to call 911, but you can shoot a text.”

In addition to the police texting system, RUSA voted and passed a bill regarding shared governance.

Currently, there is a student representative from RUSA that attends Board of Governors meetings. But that student does not have voting privileges and can only sit in on meetings that are open to the public.

"In order for Rutgers University to achieve shared governance, students should have a voice and a vote on the Board of Governors," read the resolution, F1506.

The bill will grant voting privileges to the RUSA student representative who attends Board of Governors meetings. The student representative would also be allowed to sit in closed session Board of Governors meetings.

Joining the 15-member Board of Governors, the RUSA student representative would serve in their position for one year. 

Eight out of 13 Big Ten universities already have representation on their Board of Governors, Panconi said. Some of these schools have multiple student representatives sitting in on Board of Governors meetings, such as the University of Minnesota with six voting student representatives.

Most of those Big Ten universities have had voting student representatives at Board of Governors meetings for a long time, Panconi said. 

"Ohio State just got their (student representative) recently, and I believe it was through a similar push," Panconi said. 

The Board of Governors is the highest governing body at Rutgers, making it important for students to have a voice and achieve shared governance, Panconi said.

Going forward, Panconi will set up a meeting with University President Robert L. Barchi and members of the Board of Governors to present the proposal. He also plans on reaching out to several legislators, including Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Gloucester). 

"One reason (this is important) is to make sure (a student representative is) in that room, that we have a voice," Panconi said. "As well as having assurance that there is shared governance. We do have a voice and a serious say in what goes on at the University.

Avalon Zoppo

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