RUSA votes on which student organization will lead Meal Swipes for Charity this year
During the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) general body meeting last Thursday, the assembly hosted guest speaker Don Heilman, the director of Student Legal Services (SLS), and voted to support the Youth Empowerment Club during the University-wide Meal Swipes for Charity campaign.
Toward the end of the meeting, RUSA held the selection process to chose a student charity organization to administer the Meal Swipes for Charity campaign.
“The Meal Swipes for Charity (campaign) is an opportunity for students to donate unused guest swipes to a charitable organization,” said Dan Chulak, University Affairs Committee chairman of RUSA and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior.
Chulak told the assembly that his committee received eight applications this year, and the committee then decided on three organizations believed to have the potential to raise the most money. The three selected groups were presented to the full assembly, who then voted on a single winner.
“Any student organization was allowed to apply for this program, but they have to donate to a specific, legitimate charitable organization,” he said.
The presenting student organizations were the Rutgers Youth Empowerment Club, which supports the nonprofit group Youth Empowerment Services (YES), the Rutgers chapter of Delta Upsilon, which supports building projects in a community in Jamaica and Rutgers GlobeMed, a club working with the nonprofit organization Change A Life Uganda.
Each organization gave a brief presentation about its service project and financing for the project, including its financing structure and proposed revenue sources. Following the presentations and a period of debate, RUSA voted to support the Rutgers Youth Empowerment Club.
The purpose of the club is “to provide students on campus the opportunity to serve at-risk children in the New Brunswick community through educational assistance, mentoring relationships and recreational-based prevention and intervention programs,” according to the organization website.
Eshan Kaul, the club president and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, was among the presenters for his organization.
During the presentation, Kaul highlighted the A2E tutoring program, which ran for the first time last year with great success. Although it is a YES program, Kaul said it is special because Rutgers students run the program completely.
“A2E is both a tutoring and a mentoring program at Roosevelt Elementary School for first, second and third-grade students who are designated by their teachers as the ‘most behind’ in their literacy and math skills,” Kaul said.
Last semester there were about 130 volunteers and around 50 first and second graders, he said.
The Youth Empowerment Club will table around campus to collect meal swipes. Each swipe will directly fund their program.
“A lot of our mission deals with connecting Rutgers and New Brunswick,” Kaul said
He added that the graduation rate for students attending New Brunswick High School is 68 percent.
“That’s really low, and there’s no reason why we as Rutgers students with over 40,000 people who have a lot to offer to New Brunswick can’t help out, especially when New Brunswick gives a lot to us as students,” he said
The vote wrapped up the meeting, which began with a presentation on the legal services that are available to students.
During his speech, Heilman, who played football for Rutgers as an undergraduate student at Cook College, said that his presentation to RUSA last year was the single most important night for SLS in the school year.
“We could trace directly to me standing here and talking to you, we traced it directly to a huge bump in our business that resulted in SLS last year doing almost double the numbers that it has ever done,” he said.
This is a testament to how important RUSA members are in educating students about resources available on campus, Heilman said.
Heilman, who has been practicing law for 35 years, told The Daily Targum that during the 2015-2016 academic year, SLS opened 392 student matters, and in the 2016-2017 year, the office opened 746 student matters. The expansion has continued for the first quarter of the 2017-2018 year.
“We all trace out much-improved notoriety and visibility to last year’s talk at RUSA,” he said. “Law offices still work the same way in the year 2017 as they did in the year 817, and that is word of mouth.”
Heilman said SLS will see any Rutgers student in full attorney-client privilege for free — regardless of whether they are full time or part time, matriculating or non-matriculating — about any legal issue whatsoever. It does not matter where or when the issue took place, he said, or who was involved.
“It doesn’t matter who it happened to — I don’t care if it’s you, your mother, your brother or your grandfather. If it involves you in some way, and you’ve got a legal question, you’ve got an issue, you need assistance, you need representation, you can come in and see us,” he said.
The Office of Student Legal Services provides services including legal consultation, pre-litigation services, attorney referral, community outreach and education and pre-law advising, according to its website.
One issue SLS does not assist students with is matters involving the Office of Student Conduct, Heilman said.
Referencing a study he prepared of the first 900 cases that he took in, which covered a broad expanse of legal issues, he said, “The types and the range of cases that come in are knee-buckling and hair-raising, and it’s also intellectually overwhelming sometimes, and unbelievably gratifying.”
To help SLS manage this large caseload, Heilman developed a formalized program with the Middlesex County Bar Association.
“The Middlesex County Bar Association partnership program is our answer to how we deal with a spectrum like that,” he said.
The partnership has since become a model for other state universities such as Arizona State. Matters that SLS cannot handle are referred to members of the Middlesex County Bar who chose to participate in the program. The members provide services to students at a reduced rate, according to the Middlesex County Bar Association website.
“We have about 75 hard-core Central Jersey attorneys that help us, and all I have to do is dial them up. So our students have direct access to a ‘law firm’ of 75 to 80 terrific attorneys committed to your success, and that makes us a really valuable weapon,” Heilman told the audience.