Rutgers student assembly supports sexual assault bills on March 10
In an attempt to combat sexual assault on campus, the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) passed two bills on March 10 at their weekly meeting.
The two bills were presented simultaneously because they both pertain to the issue of sexual assault. They both passed with unanimous consent.
The titles of the bills are “Resolution to Support NJ Senate Bill to Require Institutions of Higher Education to Adopt Affirmative Consent Standard and Other Policies Regarding Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking” and “Resolution to Support S.2566 — Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act.”
The bills were co-written by Evan Covello, an Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy sophomore, Avi Desai, a School of Engineering sophomore, Joseph Clark, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and Herrana Addisu, a student in the Graduate School of New Brunswick. The students urged the support of the bills presented in the Senate, detailing concepts including “affirmative consent” and “power to survivors.”
Both bills cover policies that Rutgers already has and enforces, said Margaux Taylor, the Sexual Assault Prevention Committee chair and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
Another element endorsed by the two bills is the “immunity to witnesses,” which means any individual who “participates as a complainant or witness in an investigation … will not be subject to disciplinary actions for a violence of the institution’s student conduct policy at or near the time of the incident.”
This is granted that the student does nothing that places the safety of other individuals at risk, Covello said.
Both bills also cited statistics collected from the iSPEAK survey, conducted during the 2014-15 academic year with responses from the student body.
Twenty-four percent of undergraduate women reported experiencing sexual violence before coming to Rutgers and 20 percent reported at least one instance of unwanted sexual contact since coming to Rutgers, according to the survey.
A third bill also passed was “Bill to Create Two External Representative Positions for (the Professional Fraternity Council) and (the Multicultural Greek Council),” authored by Justin Schulberg and Viktor Krapivin.
These bodies operate like a governing body, but they also support the many chapters at the University, said Brianna Holman, an executive board member of the MGC and a School of Arts and Science senior.
The MGC operates based on “culturalism” while PFC operates based on the needs of the professional fraternities, she said.
Krapivin presented the amendments to the constitution to the assembly. While the legislation was indeed presented, no actual vote is to be held until after spring break, Matthew Panconi said.
The main goal of the amendments is to create a "separation of powers of RUSA,” Krapivin said. One of the amendments is that “the assembly will become one branch of the student government,” the other two being the executive and judicial branches.
Another amendment presented is the introduction to “initiatives,” which will allow students to propose and potentially pass bills not necessarily through the assembly.
"(This amendment) gives students an alternative way to advocate on specific issues and allows students to create their own bills that might not necessarily pass in the current body of the assembly,” Krapivin said.
Bushra Hasan is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @Hasanabanana for more.