A group of Rutgers students gathered in Trenton this morning to deliver a testimony to the New Jersey General Assembly’s Higher Education Committee in favor of including a student vote on the University’s Board of Governors.
Multiple members of the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) successfully worked to convince the Committee to pass Assembly Resolution No. 256 unanimously, which urges the Rutgers University Board of Governors to appoint two student representatives to the board with one student serving as a full voting member.
The bill was sponsored by Assemblywoman Nancy J. Pinkin (D-18) and Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey (D-27), who worked with members of RUSA in advocating for the resolution.
Evan Covello, president of RUSA and an Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy senior, said that Pinkin is aiming to have the bill put up for a vote in the General Assembly before the end of June.
Once through the General Assembly, identical legislation will be introduced to the State Senate, he said.
The Rutgers Board of Governors is composed of 15 voting members vested with authority in terms of control, conduct, management and administration of the University, among other things.
As of now, two faculty members and one student are elected by the University Senate as non-voting representatives for the Board of Governors. Of the 15 voting members, eight are appointed by the governor of the state with confirmation by the New Jersey State Senate.
Phil Murphy, the Democratic Party nominee for governor of New Jersey, said in a RUSA Town Hall meeting last year that if elected he would fight to get a student vote on the Board.
Though the resolution passed in the Higher Education Committee unanimously, Covello said that the support of gubernatorial nominees remains valuable as there are still steps to be taken in order to finally enact the bill.
“No matter what we need to get this put in place, so the more support the better,” he said.
Covello said getting a student vote on the Board of Governors has been a goal of RUSA’s for about a year and they have been meeting with members of the New Jersey State Legislature to build support.
“A few members of the committee said that they were skeptical about this resolution, but because we met with them prior and had met with them throughout the year fighting for this issue they were sold and they were on board with what we are trying to do,” he said.
Suzanne Link, RUSA’s Legislative Affairs chair and a Rutgers Business School junior, said that of the 11 public colleges and universities in New Jersey, eight have student-voting representatives on their respective school’s governing boards.
“What I asked the committee was why Rutgers should be an exception to that,” she said.
Link said the Higher Education Committee was very pleased to see the drive of the students involved and that it is important to express to the Rutgers community the importance of this new resolution.
“Passing this resolution and then hopefully implementing a student-voting representative on the Board would reinforce the University’s commitment to maintaining an active dialogue with students in order to improve the quality of life at Rutgers and the overall Rutgers experience,” she said.
RUSA is already making progress on working with a senator to introduce the bill to the State Senate, Link said.
“If this is able to pass, this is only going to be the first step to getting a student vote on the Board of Governors,” Covello said. “Once we are able to get this done and have a student vote on the Board, our concerns will always be taken seriously at the highest parts of our University.”
Stephen Weiss is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in philosophy. He is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum.