Q&A session with candidates for Rutgers student assembly

<p>The two main tickets for the RUSA elections – Scarlet Knights for You (top) and Our Rutgers (bottom) – spoke at a candidate forum Tuesday night.&nbsp;</p>

The two main tickets for the RUSA elections – Scarlet Knights for You (top) and Our Rutgers (bottom) – spoke at a candidate forum Tuesday night. 

The Rutgers University Student Assembly will be hosting elections for the 2016-2017 government. Students can vote online at bit.ly/Vote4RUSA16 from April 1 to April 5. Candidates for the top three positions discussed their goals with The Daily Targum.

Nivedh Rajesh, School of Arts and Sciences junior, and Justin Schulberg, School of Arts and Sciences junior, are running for the position of RUSA President. 

Q: How would you define the requirements of your position?

Rajesh: The President needs to be committed solely to improving the lives of every single Rutgers student. The President should be able to reach out to other governing councils and organizations, and I, as previous treasurer, have been given the opportunity to do so. I have committed the past two years solely to RUSA and working on initiatives that would be felt by the average Rutgers student.

Schulberg: The president is the face of RUSA. The president is the external force that drives RUSA and is literally the one student between President Barchi and the rest of the students. The president takes the brunt of the complaints from administration and takes the brunt of complaints between students and acts as the middle man between the two.

Q: What are your goals?

Rajesh: No issue is too hard for the student assembly to accomplish. We need to inspire every elected student to work hard on accomplishing our top three goals — decreasing tuition, increasing public safety and preventing sexual assault.

Schulberg: A lot is related to my platform and outreach. Our platform focuses on three main points — sexual assault, mental health and alcohol culture on campus. Obviously it’s more expansive than that. Those aren’t the only three issues that students deal with.

Q: How do you plan to accomplish these?

Rajesh: As treasurer, I was granted the ability to understand the needs of specific organizations. By working with governing councils to allocate funding, our money spending will be smarter and more efficient, meaning more money for organizations to use. My previous experience as treasurer makes our goals one step closer, and I will dedicate myself to RUSA to make a real Rutgers revolution.

Schulberg: We picked those three in particular because we felt that they were wide-reaching. One in six women will be victims of sexual assault during their time in college (and) one in 33 men. In terms of mental health, two out of three students will face an anxiety attack or some form of depression, and 90 percent of students drink on campus even though only 25 percent are of drinking age.

Q: What makes you qualified to hold this position?

Rajesh: I’ve served on every facet of RUSA throughout my two years as a member. I’ve been a representative, a caucus chair, a committee chairman, a senator and I’ve served now as the University treasurer, two steps away from the president. I’ve seen what the president does (and) I’ve gotten a chance to work on countless initiatives.

Schulberg: I don’t know if anyone is ever perfectly qualified for it, to be completely honest. It’s a position that you need to grow into. I definitely think I’m the most qualified given my experience at Rutgers. I’ve stepped my foot into every single aspect of Rutgers life. I like to think that I can be the next face of Rutgers, because I have embodied Rutgers before.

Q: What do you expect to do differently from the last president?

Rajesh: Last year, the returning RUSA members were mostly incumbent members. A lot of my ticket right now is currently members who aren’t in RUSA, and I think providing a fresh perspective allows us to focus on things that are closer to the average student than maybe RUSA representatives see on a regular basis.

Schulberg: While Matt (Panconi) is one of the most incredible leaders I’ve ever met, he’s a little bit more closed off. I want to be as open as possible, and I think my personality lends itself to that a bit more. I tend to be very open to ideas and I love to hear stories.

Evan Covello, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy sophomore, and Mohamed Asker, School of Engineering sophomore are running for the position of RUSA Vice-President.

Q: How would you define the requirement of your position? 

Asker: I think the vice president serves as a liaison between the rest of the RUSA members in the body and administrators. One job that the vice president has to do is connect the e-board with administrators so that they can see where they come to a compromise.

Covello: The vice president has the job to serve the president, fill his duties. The other part of it is to lead the committee chairs of RUSA, get them organized and keep them productive throughout the year.

Q: What are your goals?

Asker: There’s a legislative affairs committee that should be working to decrease tuition. The other ticket may say that it’s too big to accomplish, and that’s honestly unacceptable. We need to start lobbying consistently in Trenton, as in, “We’ll help get you (legislators) votes if you help us get state funding for Rutgers.” Politicians work under two things — votes and money. If we can open access to legislators, we can easily keep the state funding at Rutgers.

Covello: My goal is to carry out the platform that we’ve been building. We have a lot of things like improving alcohol culture on campus, lessening the amount of sexual assault and improving the mental health services.

Q: How do you plan to accomplish these?

Asker: The ticket that we’ve assembled is filled with diverse student leaders that are experts in in things not just student government. A lot of these students have been in different activist organizations and political organizations, which gives them the diversity and experience to not just work on RUSA, but to take their skills and adapt them to RUSA.

Covello: The role of vice president right now, I want to try and expand that role. The reason I’m running is because there is so much more we could be doing with student outreach. We’re trying to revamp our student affairs committee in RUSA and trying to build better relationships with cultural organizations on campus.

Margaux Taylor, School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, and Shannon Chang, Rutgers Business School sophomore, are running for the position of RUSA Treasurer.

Q: How would you define the requirements of your position? 

Taylor: The treasurer sits on the allocations board and takes part in making decisions on how the money is allocated for each organization. And then they also work with the appeals afterwards. Also as a part of RUSA, he or she takes care of the budget for the year.

Chang: They’re in charge of (the) budget for RUSA. They create the budget and are in charge (of) expenditures and make sure everything throughout the year goes smoothly. The treasurer also sits on the allocations board. Allocations is the group that funds most of the organizations on campus. When students pay their term bills, a portion of that goes to RUSA, and a portion of that goes to allocations.

Q: What do you plan on changing in the budget?

Taylor: For allocations I want to make the process of applying for money a lot more streamlined, and have organizations have a better idea of what we’re looking for. I’ve been on the opposite side where you apply and hope that you’ll get the money you need, but you’re not really sure what sort of information you should be putting down. People should know how to apply for the money because if they deserve it, then they deserve it. I think that process should be a lot more open about how we decide which organizations get which amount of money.

For RUSA, the organization for how our money gets spent need to be a lot more organized and at least needs to be more open to the rest of the RUSA assembly, because right now, I don’t know how the money is being spent.

Chang: I will say that sometimes RUSA has some unnecessary expenditures.That is one thing I want to work on and cut down, because this is the student's money. I also want to increase transparency between RUSA and the general body. Most people don’t really know what it is we spend money on. Some of the things we spend money on are important, and I think the students should be able to see what that is and be able to voice any comments/suggestion and be involved with RUSA. For allocations, I think moving forward I definitely want to make sure that all organizations feel that they are receiving proper treatment and they’re receiving funding fairly.

Q: How do you plan to accomplish this?

Taylor: It would be ideal to give updates to the assembly every month or so on how we’ve had the semester budgeted so far and how we’ve stayed on track or not stayed on track, and the money we have left and how we expect to spend it. The monthly reports could be easily presented to the RUSA assembly on an excel sheet. This is currently something that is not being done.

Chang: We go through extensive training over the summer. I’m so excited to begin learning exactly what I need to be doing and implementing all the things that our ticket has been saying we’d be doing. For transparency, one thing I was thinking of is to publicly be posting expenditures, even go as far as weekly expenditures. Make that public record, should anyone be interested they can find that. In regards to allocations, one thing we can be doing even more is by PR'ing this and helping out organizations even further by letting them know exactly what to do.

Madhuri Bhupathiraju is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @madhuri448 for more.

Bushra Hasan is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @Hasanabanana for more.

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