GIBSON: Students should demand high standards for next RUSA president
Opinions Column: What's On My Mind
The school year is almost over and with that comes the civic duty to elect next year’s student body president. The Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) presidential debate is this Thursday and I want to know what I should be looking for in my next president, and there was no one better to consult than current RUSA President Evan Covello.
Covello calls the election period “exciting,” but his expectations for a successor show how serious these elections are. I’ve always judged candidates on the clarity of their ideas, but admittedly I know very little about the responsibilities of a RUSA president and what kind of candidate can be successful. He noted that the president is not solely responsible for the success of the assembly in a given year, but they certainly set the tone, and so I’ll be focusing on that position for this column.
“Students should demand the highest standard out of the candidates that they see,” Covello said. “Students should never have to doubt if, at the very least, who they elect is going to get their work done and who’s going to actually put in the time necessary to be thoughtful enough to hear every concern that students have. I think it’s very important that students demand that of whoever they elect to be my successor and their president.”
Some concerns that Covello expects students have during this election cycle are the affordability of college, sexual assault on campus, mental health, public safety and inclusion. These include the issues that he campaigned on last year and so he was keen to share what potential promises are bogus and which should have weight.
The most important issue out of the above for me is affordability. When it comes to Rutgers’ tuition costs and fees, he said to focus on what the candidate can do when it comes to connections to academics. During Covello’s tenure, RUSA compiled a report to help the school decide on universal iClickers, so students don’t have to buy multiple devices that essentially do the same thing. I also think of NJPIRG’s campaigns for more affordable and online textbooks, especially for large core-requirement classes.
"Truth be told, any candidate that says they’re going to lower your tuition is just not telling the truth,” he said. “Anyone that says they're going to advocate for funding is a little bit better. It’s a lofty goal, but you always should be doing that. If you’re not fighting for funding its a mistake. But linking it back to academics is a better way (sic).”
When it comes to gauging how a potential president can implement possible legislation or change in the University on any of these issues, Covello is looking for two main things: experience and tangible results.
Covello’s ticket last year, , emphasized their collective experiences in RUSA. The year before, Covello was vice president and the other members on the ticket were also RUSA veterans. He said that this was highlighted so intensely because when he ran for president after the 2016 elections, he thought that students would be considering a candidate’s past with a new type of scrutiny. Although his experience came from within RUSA, Covello noted that the leadership experience he views as important can come from anywhere.
“Experience, can come in many different ways. What has that student been involved in that qualified them to be the voice of all 35,000+ undergraduates at this University?” he said. “I wouldn’t vote for someone who hasn't had some sort of achievement through their leadership roles or experience.”
In addition to experience and achievements, Covello believes a RUSA president should genuinely love Rutgers. Campaigning can often focus on just the negatives, and despite flaws at the University, there are a lot of issues to talk about that involve building on the University’s progress. I also think the job is simply too difficult to not have a passion for the University, and he believes the current candidates recognize that as well.
“While I’m saying that we should demand the most out of our candidates, students should take pride that we do have people running for these high positions with the goal of serving the student body,” Covello said. “Students should be proud that we have committed candidates that are looking to do for students (sic).”
Brittany Gibson is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in art history and journalism and media studies and minoring in French. Her column, "What's On My Mind," runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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