August 19, 2019 | 90° F

RUSA Town Hall Update: Student assembly endorses free flu vaccination, new vice chancellor discusses plans to widen mental health services

Photo by Ryan Stiesi |

Succeeding Felicia McGinty as vice chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Salvador Mena spoke at his first Rutgers University Student Assembly meeting. He previously worked as associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs in 2014.    

At its Thursday meeting, the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) voted unanimously on legislation to endorse free flu vaccine clinics being brought to campus over the coming months, and to help advertise during Turn the Campus Purple Week, which begins on Saturday, Oct. 6. 

Rutgers Student Health, Walgreens and professional pharmacy fraternity Phi Delta Chi, collaborated to bring the clinics to campus, which will happen on Oct. 10 at the Livingston Student Center Coffeehouse and the Sojourner Truth Apartments, Nov. 13 at the Busch Student Center International Lounge and at the Douglass Student Center in Trayes Hall A and on Jan. 29, 2019 at the Livingston Student Center Coffeehouse and the Sojourner Truth Apartments.

This initiative comes as December, a month notorious for flu activity, approaches, and alongside data from Rutgers Student Health that shows more than 20 percent of Rutgers students reported missing assignments and receiving lower grades due to flu and flu-like symptoms in the past.

The meeting began with Salvador Mena, newly appointed vice chancellor for Student Affairs, giving a guest speech about Student Affairs and its latest initiatives. 

“One of the things that we talk about in Student Affairs is that everybody is a potential connecting point,” Mena said in an interview with The Daily Targum.

He said he has open hours on Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon and Tuesdays from 3 to 4 p.m. for students to come and talk.

In his speech, Mena discussed the new initiatives his office is working on.

Increased Mental Health Services

He said a new program, Protocol, begins soon and will offer students access to 24/7 counseling. He said after-hours counseling is part of an initiative to increase access to mental health services at Rutgers. 

“Providing access to mental healthcare continues to be a challenge … every year we see more students coming in with more need for any number of different reasons, and so we certainly want to make sure that we’re providing as much access to mental health providers around the clock if we can,” Mena said.

Expanding Emergency Funds

Mena discussed the Student Emergency Fund, and said that efforts are underway to expand it.

He said they are working on growing a “general” fund alongside funds for specific groups on campus that may be more vulnerable or in need of the money.

Basic Needs and Securities Task Force

He said a new task force will be introduced in the coming year to address the basic needs of the student body and Rutgers community, and examine strategies going forward. 

“As an institution, we’re going to begin to grapple with what does that mean here at Rutgers,” he said.

Meal Swipe Options on College Avenue

Following a question about meal-swipe options on the College Avenue campus compared to other campuses, Mena and a representative from Rutgers Dining Services discussed increasing options on campus. The discussions included a plan to eventually bring a cafe to the Rutgers Academic Building, and a new food truck on College Avenue.

New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill (D) also made an appearance at the RUSA meeting. 

He said he came to see the Rutgers students in action, and discussed possible future collaborations between RUSA, Rutgers and the City of New Brunswick.

“One of the things I would like to explore and open up a dialogue with RUSA and in particular President (Suzanne) Link, would be about formalizing our relationship," he said. "The two governing bodies, the governing body of the students, RUSA, and the city governing body, we interact but it’s not in a formal way.”

Ryan Stiesi

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