RUSA allocates $4K towards suicide prevention fundraiser
During the general meeting on Thursday, the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) hosted guest speakers from the Rutgers Office of Disability Services and passed two pieces of legislation — one allocated $4,000 toward an upcoming mental health awareness 5k event, and the other approved the Fall 2017 Election Guidelines, kicking off the RUSA fall election season.
“Over the past year and a half, one of the big goals for RUSA has been inclusivity, going off the lead of the University as well as what we’ve been hearing from students. Part of that is being inclusive toward students with disabilities,” said Jessica Tuazon, RUSA secretary and a School of Engineering junior.
Kathy Loder-Murphy, the Office of Disability Services assistant director, and Coordinator Debbie Huisman attended the RUSA meeting to speak to the body about how student leaders and organizations can be more inclusive toward those with disabilities.
Loder-Murphy, who coordinates services for students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), brain injuries and learning disabilities, began by emphasizing that not all disabilities are visible.
“One of the number one disability categories that we have for students here (at Rutgers) is mental illness,” she said.
This category of disability includes depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar and learning disorders and ADHD, she said.
The one thing that is different about these disabilities, Loder-Murphy said, is that they are invisible.
“One out of 5 people in America have a disability — in this room, there are people who have a disability that we can’t see, and that really has an impact on how we speak of folks with disabilities,” she said.
When planning on-campus events, Loder-Murphy urged the audience to be aware of possible accommodations, which students might need in order to attend or participate. The best way to be inclusive when planning an event, she said, is to include the simple sentence "if you need accommodations for this event, please call," in event materials.
“Disability is like any other category, it is the same as religion or gender or sexual orientation, it is how someone identifies themselves, but it is not their true and only identity,” Loder-Murphy said. “Everybody has multiple identities, so when we look at disabilities, we look at is as part of the person, but we also want to be as inclusive as possible about how our community operates around a student with a disability.”
RUSA voted to pass a bill to co-sponsor the "Into the Light: A 5K for Mental Health Awareness," an upcoming event hosted by two sisters attending Rutgers who recently lost their father to suicide. The event will be held on Saturday, Sept. 23 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Cook Campus Center.
Kate Brandt, Caroline Ross and RUSA Vice President Christie Schweighardt authored the legislation and presented it to the body on Thursday evening. The speakers addressed RUSA’s recent collaboration with the Rutgers Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) to improve mental health services for students, including making online scheduling available for students to make counseling appointments.
The authors emphasized to the audience that although RUSA has been working since the summer to increase the scope and accessibility of on-campus mental health care, it is still necessary to be more cognizant of these issues affecting students and the larger community.
“Events like this 5K (that are) being organized by Rutgers students are incredibly important,” Ross, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said. “As a student assembly, we want to support and represent that here, and show that we are behind students who value these kinds of projects."
The "Into the Light" 5K event will benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Schweighardt said, and the purpose of the event is to raise awareness and break the stigma surrounding mental health.
According to the text of the legislation, RUSA will allocate $4,000 from its miscellaneous projects line item toward the distribution of t-shirts promoting mental health awareness at the event. The original legislation proposed a $2,000 donation but was amended during the meeting to increase it to $4,000.
The legislation states that the stigma surrounding mental health is the result of “lack of awareness and lack of information” regarding mental illness.
The organizers will also be at RUSA’s Mental Health Town Hall. Usually, events benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are called “Out of the Darkness,” Schweighardt said, but this one will be titled “Into the Light” to enforce a positive outlook. At the time of the meeting, there were 698 registered participants.
RUSA also passed a resolution which approved the Fall 2017 Election Guidelines for the RUSA elections occurring this fall during the first week of October. Viktor Krapivin, RUSA elections chair and a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences presented the Fall 2017 Election Guidelines to the full body.
“This year, we held the first elections committee meeting that was open to the public, where members of the public had the opportunity to contribute to the guidelines,” Krapivin said, as part of RUSA’s effort to increase transparency.
The goal of the Elections Committee is to raise voter turnout to 10 or possibly 15 percent by creating less restrictive guidelines regulating campaign practices, he said.
“Fall elections always have depressed turnout — we usually have around 7 percent turnout,” Krapivin said.
There are 36 available positions open to contest for the coming election, including two School of Arts and Sciences Senators at-large, a class of 2021 representative for each campus and several at-large representatives for each campus, including off-campus, according to the Election Guidelines document.
In order to run for election, candidates must be full-time undergraduate students with a minimum 2.50 GPA.
The full document, which includes campaign finance guidelines, as well as rules for contributing to campaigns, is available on the RUSA website.
Additionally, students seeking to run for a position must complete the “Declaration of Intent to Run form,” available online, by Sept. 25, according to the guidelines.
According to the document, three election information sessions will be held this week on Monday, Sept. 18 and Tuesday, Sept. 19 from 8 to 9 p.m. at The Cove in the Busch Student Center and on Wednesday, Sept. 20 from 8 to 9 p.m. in the Graduate Student Lounge in the College Avenue Student Center.
The campaigning period is now open until Sunday, Oct. 1 at 11:59 p.m. During this time, candidates may begin campaigning for votes.
Christina Gaudino is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in public policy. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.