Following heated debate, RUSA Spring election results will be announced this Thursday
On Thursday night, the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) held a presidential debate at the Student Activities Center. Online voting for the Spring election closed the following day at midnight.
The RUSA debate was moderated by two current board members and involved the presidential and vice presidential candidates for both tickets — Rutgers Rise and Knights for Change. The candidates spent a total of about an hour and a half detailing their platforms and qualifications.
The most prominently debated issues included the University’s response to sexual violence, mental health treatment, student representation on the Board of Governors, water quality on campus and college affordability.
“I am running because I believe that words need to be connected to action,” said Rutgers Rise candidate Evan Covello in his opening statement. “As vice president and as the associate director of the Association of Big Ten Students, I have been able to try to put those words into action.”
Covello, a School of Arts and Science junior, said his experience and success within RUSA — in encouraging former President Barack Obama to come to Rutgers and placing a student seat on the Board of Governors — prepared him to serve the student body.
One of Rutgers Rise’s major initiatives is advocating for a University holiday during elections. They also want to move forward by allowing a student to vote on the Board of Governors and encouraging administrators to test for lead in drinking water at Rutgers, The Daily Targum reported.
Both members of the ticket were active at RUSA members last year — Covello as vice president and current vice presidential candidate Christie Schweighardt as chief of staff.
Throughout the debate, the candidates' varying degrees of experience became a hot-button issue. As the mediator pointed out within one of his questions, Knights for Change largely based its campaign on an “outsider” perspective.
“I am tired of the bureaucracy that plagues RUSA,” said Knights for Change candidate Adeel Ahmed during his opening statement. “I am sick and tired of the RUSA establishment putting the interests of the status quo and the administration before the interest of the students. This is not how it is supposed to be, we are supposed to put the interest of the students first. ”
The School of Arts and Sciences sophomore said student unity is at the very heart of his vice presidential campaign.
He pointed to his success in organizing the march against President Donald J. Trump’s travel ban earlier this year as indicative of what he would be able to do for RUSA.
“We are trying to find individuals who are really passionate about issues and who are willing to advocate for them,” Ahmed said.
Ninety-five percent of Knights for Change’s team is comprised of minorities, which sets the ticket apart from Rutgers Rise, School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Vladimir Carrasco told The Daily Targum,
Carrasco is running for president on the Knights for Change ticket.
“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 said.
The debate, much like the presidential town hall, ended with each of the opponents being asked to say something nice about one another.
The candidates took this opportunity to share their respect for one another and to acknowledge the work both sides have done during their time at Rutgers.
"We are holding this event because we care about Rutgers," Ahmed said. "We have different perspectives but we do this because we care about Rutgers."
Election results will be announced publicly on March 30 and a swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected members will take place on April 6.