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RUSA denounces upcoming speech event in bill passed Thursday

Members from the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) passed multiple bills yesterday: ranging from denouncing the "Speaker Series" event to calling on the University to be more transparent with its task forces. – Photo by Photo by Brendan Brightman | The Daily Targum

Yesterday at the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) meeting, members voted on an impromptu bill to denounce the University’s decision to invite Lisa Daftari to speak on campus, alongside legislation pushing for more transparency from the administration.

Jhanvi Virani, chairperson of the RUSA Student Affairs Committee and a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the Student Affairs Committee wrote the bill alongside student groups including the Muslim Student Association, the Muslim Public Relations Council and the Latino Student Council.

Daftari is a foreign affairs journalist and is frequently seen on Fox News as a political analyst. A Rutgers alumna, she also works as editor-in-chief of The Foreign Desk. Rutgers Undergraduate Academic Affairs (UAA) invited her to speak through its "Speaker Series" on Oct. 16. 

UAA said the goal of its event was to invite a speaker who would start a dialogue about what students are learning in the classroom, the current cultural and political climate and encourage civic engagement.

Virani claimed the speaker has a history of rhetoric that made certain student groups, particularly the Muslim community, feel marginalized and unsafe. She said that because of this it is unfair for the University to bring Daftari on campus when it is in part funded by student fees.

“So essentially this is just a bill to denounce the decision to bring her as a University-sponsored speaker,” Virani said.

The bill passed last night, and includes a clause stating RUSA will endorse any opposition event that happens at the same time as the speech in an effort to take attention away from the UAA event, Virani said.

Also of note, the Assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling on Rutgers to be more transparent through publishing a “comprehensive” list of its task forces and committees.

According to the text of the bill, RUSA will call on the Rutgers chancellors to publish the list by the end of the Fall 2018 semester, make it accessible via the web and regularly updated and require each committee to give a public report of their progress every year to update the public.

During the rest of the meeting, members also presented updates on their committees, discussed a new Allocations Surrogate Act and passed the Permanent Legislation Act of 2018. 

Committee chairs gave updates on what they worked on throughout the week and what they will be accomplishing in the future during last night's RUSA committee presentations. For instance, Ryan Cassidy, the Athletics Committee Chair and School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, announced his committee will be offering a 1.5-credit course for sophomore, junior and senior athletes in the Spring of 2019. 

Nick Pellitta, the chair of the RUSA Allocations Board and School of Arts and Sciences senior, presented the Allocations Surrogate Act. 

The legislation is intended to create a more efficient and transparent means of allocating funding to the more than 400 School of Arts and Sciences and General Interest organizations funded on campus, he said. 

Currently, he said, the board does not have the bandwidth to efficiently carry its two basic functions: allocating appropriate funding and administering audits of organizations.

Pellitta said the bill will allow the board to accept new members, known as surrogates, who will be non-voting staff, carrying out the duties of allocation liaisons and audit officers. The new members will allow for greater division of the workload and fairer distribution of funding to all organizations. 

The legislation will be voted on at next week’s meeting. 

RUSA Parliamentarian Nicholas Tharney, a Rutgers Business School junior, also presented the Permanent Legislation Act of 2018. He said the act will create an online directory that will document all previous legislation and guidelines, organizing it in a way that makes them easier to access. All legislation that is not included in the directory is considered repealed, he said. 

The bill passed with only one objection.

“Unfortunately, with a lot of turnover, with students leaving every four years, some pieces of legislation are lost,” Tharney said. “But this legislation will prevent that from happening in the future.” 

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