RUSA president discusses state of assembly at weekly meeting
One year after taking office, Rutgers University Student Assembly President Matt Panconi is proud of what his team has accomplished.
On Thursday night, Panconi gave a “State of the Assembly” address to the student governing body, listing their achievements and explaining how they can tie into future goals.
"Tonight we're going to be going over all of the accomplishments of the student body, and I'm going to be establishing some goals," said the Rutgers Business School senior. "I feel like RUSA has had an extremely productive year, I think we've done a phenomenal job with Rutgers."
RUSA decreased its budget by 34 percent from previous years, he said. They have worked towards syllabus banks for every class to the School of Arts and Sciences program websites, and will expand to other schools in the upcoming years.
But RUSA should be proudest of its accomplishments in increasing awareness of mental health, and of the initiatives created to help students learn about resources available to assist victims.
Legislative affairs has connected RUSA members with members of the state government, while student representatives have also spoken to a liaison at the White House as part of the Big Ten meeting.
“We’ve taken great strides in this committee this year. The goal of this committee is to create relationships with legislators,” he said. “Throughout this year, we’ve forged relationships.”
Local mayors and state congressmen include the legislators RUSA now works with, he said.
The legislative affairs committee was able to successfully fight the “Snookie Bill,” which would allow students to decide which programming events they wanted to fund through their term bill, he said. He called the bill a "logistical nightmare."
In the future, Panconi said the committee will support a bill to increase Rutgers’ state funding to fight its rising costs.
“I think that this is something that we can make happen,” he said. “I’ve spoken to a (few) legislators this year … and they are in favor of it.”
Changing RUSA Town Hall formats helped increase the number of students who attended, he said. Instead of having several smaller meetings, the group hosted a few large ones with greater numbers of administrators than in the past.
“It was helpful because students were able to address their concerns big or small, and administrators were able to get student feedback,” he said.
Every other year RUSA will help host a “What’s On Your Mind” survey to let students provide feedback on their time at Rutgers, and the group is now trying to have students propose questions for the instructor surveys that are sent out at the end of every semester.
One of the main goals for the future is completing the Commuter Assistant program sponsored with the Off-Campus Students' Association and spearheaded by RUSA Chief of Staff Murtuza Hussain, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
University Affairs has spent a large amount of time on increasing students’ access to clean water, fixing the timing of the traffic light outside the Student Activity Center and raising funds for charity.
Panconi said adding another light outside the Scott Hall bus stop would also help increase student safety.
The assembly is also working to strengthen sexual assault protections and provide assistance to victims at school.
"Together, we have strengthened the student voice," Panconi said.
Nikhilesh De is a School of Engineering junior. He is the news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.