Second RUSA meeting of the semester focuses on how to impact federal policy
The Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) held its second weekly meeting of the semester yesterday at the Student Activities Center on College Avenue. The organization hosted two guest speakers from the Rutgers Office for Federal Relations who talked about their organization and how it promotes the interests of Rutgers and its students in Washington, D.C.
The first meeting was on Thursday, Jan. 19.
Shortly after Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Policy senior and RUSA President Evan Covello called the session to order, Francine Pfeiffer and Alexandria Hermann of the Office For Federal Relations (OFR) began their presentation on how they advocate for policies benefiting Rutgers and its students.
Pfeiffer, a Rutgers alumna, has served on several student and university advocacy groups and has been with the OFR for 20 years. Hermann is a Syracuse University graduate who previously worked as a staffer for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and is well versed in how the federal policymaking works.
The OFR is part of Rutgers’ Department of External Affairs. The OFR team seeks to promote the interest of the Rutgers community by lobbying members of Congress on issues of funding, federal aid and research grants.
The office works closely with similar representatives from other universities and has been operational since 1994, Hermann said.
“Federal funding for student aid, federal funding for research, those are the key reasons we are there, but policy issues are also really important. Anything that affects how we do our business and how we conduct education and research, those are all reasons why we are in Washington,” Pfeiffer said.
The office forwards letters and petitions to government representatives, reviews and disseminates bills drafted and passed by Congress, works directly with the New Jersey delegation, and serves as the main method through which policymakers and the University can communicate, according to its website.
The OFR holds an annual trip to Washington for some 15 Rutgers students for Undergraduate Student Advocacy Day. The trip takes place this year on April 17 and students will spend the day exploring Washington, D.C. while advocating for federal investment in student aid.
Applications for the trip, along with one for the office’s summer internship, can be found on its section of the Department of External Affairs website.
After the presentation, Hermann and Pfeiffer took questions from the Student Assembly, which includes representatives from different student populations and interests. They educated students on what issues they are currently tackling, like the recently unveiled PROSPER Act and the battle for DACA, as well as what policies the OFR has helped legislate in the past.
Before the conclusion of the meeting, officers gave their reports on recent RUSA developments and projects. Among them was a recent conference held by the Association of Big Ten Students (ABTS), an organization comprising of student representation groups of the 14 Big Ten schools.
The ABTS is a platform for these schools to discuss and share ideas for how to improve the student experience and advocate for students' rights both on campus and in government.
Shortly after 9 p.m., Covello brought the week’s session to adjournment with the strike of his gavel and afterward various committee members and student assembly members met in small groups to discuss future plans and the current needs of Rutgers students.
RUSA meets every Thursday at 7:30 pm, and the sessions are open to anyone who is interested.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that this was the first weekly meeting of the semester. The first meeting of the semester was on Jan. 19.