Rutgers University Student Assembly utilizes party-like system for upcoming student elections
From March 22 to March 24, the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) will hold its annual spring elections.
The elections will give undergraduates the opportunity to vote for student representatives who will decide what the assembly will focus on next year, said Anish Patel, the head of the RUSA Elections Committee.
“(Elected students) will set the agenda for what issues RUSA is going to tackle,” the School of Arts and Sciences senior said. “What they want to advocate for, what they want to lobby the administration for, what they want to lobby the state government for — all of those things are decided by this election.”
Election results will be announced on March 30, with a swearing in ceremony slated for April 6 and the first official meeting of the new body to be held on April 13, according to the 2017 Elections Guidelines.
Students can vote for candidates online on the getINVOLVED website using any internet-connected device, Patel said. There are currently 39 positions available.
In order to run for any of these positions, students have to be enrolled full-time for the 2017 Spring and Fall semesters, maintain above a 2.5 GPA and cannot be on academic or disciplinary probation, according to the guidelines.
Patel said there are requirements that are specific to the various RUSA positions as well. Students seeking a position can campaign as part of a “ticket,” which is defined by the guidelines as a “grouping of candidates under a unified banner.”
As of now, there are two tickets campaigning — Rutgers Rise and Knights for Change
Both tickets are advocating for the prevention of sexual violence, increased college affordability and the de-stigmatization of issues surrounding mental health, according to the Rutgers Rise and Knights for Change websites.
Evan Covello, a presidential candidate for Rutgers Rise and a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said Rutgers Rise’s platform varied from Knights for Change’s in several ways.
Rutgers Rise, unlike Knights for Change, plans to address the student organization funding crisis, advocate for a University holiday on Election Day, get a student vote on the University Board of Governors and demand that the University test the water supply for lead, Covello said.
Covello, RUSA’s current vice president, said he thought Rutgers Rise candidates had more experience than Knights for Change candidates as well.
Covello’s running mates include vice presidential candidate Christie Schweighardt, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and RUSA’s current chief of staff, and candidate for treasurer Shannon Chang, a Rutgers Business School junior and RUSA’s current treasurer.
Covello said having members with these credentials makes Rutgers Rise better suited to address issues that appear on both tickets’ platforms, like college affordability.
“A lot of the teams throughout each year in RUSA elections say that they want to address (issues like) college affordability,” Covello said. “But the difference is not all of them have always had experience lobbying (and) … actually fighting for students (and) testifying before senate committees.”
Vladimir Carrasco, a presidential candidate for Knights for Change and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said leadership experience could be gained through other organizations besides RUSA.
“Experience doing nothing (in RUSA) has no value … (and) to make the allegation that my team lacks experience, it would be to disregard the validity of other student organizations, a point which should be noted by the voters,” Carrasco said in an email. “We have members from Rutgers NO MORE, SCREAM Theatre and Trained Crisis response advocates to lead our fight against sexual violence. We also have members of Rutgers One and IDIA who are experienced activist in lobbying legislators through the authorship of policies.”
Involvement in student organizations is conducive to the kind of specified knowledge needed to address and solve various platform issues, Carrasco said.
On its website, the group claims that RUSA has previously failed to “unite the student body and represent the diversity of issues that are urgent.”
Carrasco said he and the members of Knights for Change could solve this problem.
“Ninety-five percent of our team consists of individuals who identify as a member of a racial and ethnic minority. This is what sets us apart,” he said. “We believe that by electing those who have experienced oppression, we change the status quo for minorities. Our team recognizes the intersectionality of these issues, which is what grants us a new perspective and vision in our approach to RUSA.”
Carrasco and Covello both said it was important for students to vote in the upcoming election.
“Voting is one of the most important ways to let your voice be heard,” Carrasco said.
Nicholas Simon is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. He is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.