The 2020 Rutgers University Student Assembly elections are underway and polls will remain open until Wednesday night. This year, there are three student tickets: RVision, UnScrew RU and UKnighted are all vying to fill the open positions.
Aneesh Deshpande, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and the Assembly’s current vice president, served as the chair for the Spring 2020 Elections Committee. He said they were in charge of setting up the ballot and checking the eligibility of the candidates, as well as moderating the presidential debate days prior to the election.
Deshpande said there are 40 positions available in the Assembly, consisting of the president, vice president, treasurer and senate positions. The candidates for president and vice president were required to run together, he said.
In terms of the criteria candidates had to meet in order to run, Deshpande said all students needed to have a 2.5 minimum GPA and be enrolled as a full-time student. Candidates running for the position of president or vice president also needed to have at least one year of experience in the Assembly, whether it be as a voting member or a member of a committee, he said.
Marc Younker, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and presidential candidate, and Saman Aamer, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and candidate for School of Arts and Sciences senator at-large, are both running under the RVision ticket and discussed the basis of their platform.
“(It’s) rooted within three pillars, being accountability, accessibility and equity, and figuring out how (we can) use these principles on a larger scale supporting Rutgers students,” Younker said.
When it comes to mental health, he said they are focused on how they can widen students’ access to health resources. He also said they want to make campus organizations more widely available, as they recognize students have other responsibilities outside of being a University student, as well as creating a scholarship to give students an opportunity to focus on their schoolwork rather than their financial situation.
“(We’re) also doing larger things, like fighting to divest Rutgers from fossil fuels, fighting against racism, homophobia, sexism, all of these larger -isms on our campus to create a better school and learning environment,” Younker said.
Aamer said they have also created a comprehensive plan for changes to some of the Assembly’s committees, such as for sexual violence, education, health and wellness, mental health and academic affairs. She said this plan does include issues related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as well.
In regard to getting students to join their ticket, Younker said they wanted to build a team of people who were passionate about the student experience. He said they reached out to a diverse number of groups on campus to get a sense of who would be interested in running with their ticket.
Aamer said she chose to join RVision due to their focus on mental health, sexual violence and education, which she says are important issues for her. She said this is a ticket that can resonate with a lot of students.
“I would tell students that RVision is a ticket that’s truly looking not just to sit in student government and do initiatives and policies, but to connect and engage our student body and to unify us,” Younker said. “That all student voices were being accounted for and that no one’s getting left behind, and I think RVision is a ticket that best shows student voice, that best shows student advocacy and best shows what the students want.”
Nicholas LaBelle, a Rutgers Business School junior and presidential candidate, Arielle Dublin, a Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy junior and candidate for vice president, and Hira Hussain, a Rutgers Business School junior and candidate for treasurer, are running under the ticket UnScrew RU.
In terms of their ticket’s policies, LaBelle said he has authorized a bill with the Assembly’s current president called the SAFE act. Through this bill, they will take unused club funds from the cancellation of all events this semester and put a portion into an emergency fund that will help students being impacted by COVID-19.
LaBelle said they are also advocating for an income share agreement. The goal of this program is to push off debt payments for students and instead have them pay a portion of their future income. He said they already have a sponsor for this program and hope to implement it in the fall if they are elected.
Hussain said they are also looking for ways to increase the availability of over-the-counter drugs and low-cost drugs for students on campus. She also said for her, an important part of their platform is advocating for better lighting throughout the Rutgers campuses and increasing communication with the Rutgers University Police Department.
When asked what they wanted students to keep in mind, LaBelle said UnScrew RU is a ticket that has already passed policies and made concrete changes in the Assembly. He said they are advocates that will not only fight for students, but also already have prior experience with making changes on campus.
Dublin also said the members of their ticket want to be a voice for the voiceless and represent students who might otherwise go unrepresented.
“This is going to be another year of potential change, and it’s important to have that representation and having people look and feel like, ‘Hey, I’m comfortable having someone there who can be a voice for me when the majority of time we feel like we can’t,’” she said.
In the end, Hussain said their ticket is qualified and passionate about the Rutgers community. She said UnScrew RU consists of candidates that want to leave Rutgers in a better place than they found it.
Running as presidential candidate under the third ticket, UKnighted, is Ilce Perez, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
Perez said a major issue their ticket is focusing on is diversity and inclusion at Rutgers. She said if elected, they plan to create a justice equity affairs committee that would increase communication between the Assembly and underrepresented communities.
In addition to this, Perez said they want to increase college affordability and implement the Open and Affordable Textbook Program. She also said they want to bring back over-the-counter pharmacies to the University, or find a compromise at the very least, to ensure students have access to over-the-counter products.
When it came to finding other students to run on the UKnighted ticket, she said having passionate candidates was one of the most important things for her. She also said she looked for younger students who are eager to get involved and make a change to the University.
“We have a very diverse group of students with different perspectives, different stories that might relate to the students we have on campus,” Perez said.
As a first-generation student, Perez said she also is able to connect and represent other first-generation students. With this community, as well as other underrepresented communities, she said she wants to make sure all students know they will be well represented by their ticket.
“We want to make a shift in (the Assembly’s) culture. There’s a lack of transparency now with the student body and even within itself,” she said. “We want to make sure (students) know that we’re passionate, we’re driven and we will definitely advocate and make sure that change is made here at Rutgers.”