RUSA assembly introduces Link as new president, recaps the last year under Covello
Evan Covello, outgoing president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA), gave the third annual State of the Assembly address at Thursday’s RUSA meeting.
After delivering remarks on what RUSA has accomplished this year and its plans for the future, the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy senior passed the gavel, formally swearing in the new president and vice president, Suzanne Link and Jaidev Phadke — both School of Arts and Sciences juniors.
They ran under the One Rutgers platform, which seeks to continue to promote the well-being of the entire student body and fight to keep tuition and costs low and students involved on campus, according to the platform's website.
Covello, who previously served as the Big Ten liaison, Legislative Affairs chair and vice president, has been in RUSA since his first semester at Rutgers. His vice president, Christie Schweighardt, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, delivered opening remarks and introduced the president at his last official RUSA meeting.
One initiative the assembly began this year was its universal iClicker task force, a program that seeks to move the University toward a single iClicker for every class and reduce the inefficiency and cost of having to purchase several different devices to serve the same purpose, Covello said.
He said RUSA also made advances in establishing an affordable textbook program, secured an extension for WebReg availability and took steps toward creating a central undergraduate research directory.
The assembly also made several legislative changes this year.
An elections guide was passed, standardizing the procedures of electing candidates and the qualifications they need to run, making the spring and fall elections much more efficient than when new rules had to be passed every year, he said. The assembly also passed a successful budget that funded the demands of student organizations.
In terms of inclusivity, RUSA pushed for making menstrual hygiene products free and available in all student centers and most female and gender neutral bathrooms, Covello said. It also promoted awareness and passed legislation supporting the Rutgers Student Food Pantry, supported net neutrality, student DREAMers and handicap accessibility.
Covello said that college affordability was one of the main areas RUSA has and continues to focus on.
A big leap in this area was made under the direction of Link, the incoming president. A bill to place a fully voting student representative was presented to the New Jersey legislature and RUSA hopes to get it passed in the near future to create better representation in the ultimate governing body at the University, he said.
RUSA worked closely on upgrading mental health services on campus, getting the Center for Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) to extend its hours of operation, hire more counselors and create an online system for scheduling appointments, Covello said.
RUSA also hosted and sponsored events like the Into the Light 5K, he said.
Public safety was another area of focus for the assembly. Covello said it hosted events connecting police with student communities. Another achievement was MidKnight Snacks, a program which promotes healthy and safe drinking habits.
An issue important to all Rutgers students is the prevention and end of sexual violence on campus. Initiatives that RUSA took this year included working closely with the "It’s On Us" campaign, addressing student concerns about mandated training and bystander intervention training plus being involved in several events promoting awareness, he said.
Notable Rutgers faculty attended the event.
University Chancellor Debasish Dutta was in the crowd and was joined by other administrators like Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Felicia McGinty. McGinty thanked the assembly for its hard work improving the Rutgers experience.
After answering questions and yielding the floor, Covello was thanked by the assembly and the crowd for his year of hard work and determination. This marked his last meeting and the end of his four-year career at RUSA.