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Exclusive interview: RUSA president, vice president explain student government's role on campus

Jack Ramirez, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) president, and Aarushi Fernandez, a School of Engineering senior and the Assembly's vice president, recently spoke with The Daily Targum on their impact on campus.
 – Photo by @rutgers.sbp & @rutgers.sbvp / Instagram

On October 18, the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) president and vice president sat down with The Daily Targum's news desk to discuss the role of the Assembly at the University.

The Assembly is the undergraduate student government for the Rutgers—New Brunswick campus, acting as a representative for students and allocating student fees for more than 400 student organizations, according to its website.

Jack Ramirez, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and the Assembly president, said a significant part of the Assembly's role is to hear any student's concerns and assist in bringing them to the attention of the University administration.

Ramirez shared some of the key initiatives the Assembly does to incorporate students' needs into its regular agenda.

"Our town halls are an extremely important event that we host. We also pass legislation that directly helps students, like the recent Resilience Fund, and hosting Meal Swipes for Charity each year," he said.

Aarushi Fernandez, a School of Engineering senior and the Assembly's vice president, said the Assembly also has an annual student survey, "What's On Your Mind," which helps them understand students' issues.

Ramirez and Fernandez next discussed how funding allocations are separated from their positions in the Assembly to avoid potential conflicts or bias.

Fernandez said the Assembly's allocations team reviews the budgets for hundreds of clubs on the New Brunswick campus. It holds training for club members responsible for the budget at the beginning of each academic year.

Fernandez said club funding derives from the approximately $36.50 student fee on each undergraduate student's term bill every semester. The fee is divided and allocated to multiple entities, including $2 to club sports and recreation, $1.25 to the class fund and treasury and $3.75 to the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA).

The remainder of the student fee, $29.50, for School of Arts and Science students is allotted to the Assembly and then allocated by their board. For non-School of Arts and Sciences students, 80 percent of their student fee is given to their respective student governing body, and 20 percent of that fee is allocated to the Assembly, Fernandez said.

Ramirez said the Assembly's legislation impacts the lives of students and the University community.

"Just a couple of weeks ago, we were able to pass legislation that allocated $10,000 for the security cameras to be implemented in and around the College Avenue Student Center," Ramirez said.

He said this initiative is part of his and Fernandez's movement to increase public safety on campus, and this camera project will be fully implemented by the end of the semester.

Other projects the Assembly has pushed to completion include the renovated blue light system that the Rutgers University Police Department and Institutional Planning and Operations implemented over the previous academic year, Ramirez said.

Ramirez and Fernandez clarified that their work extends to state government in Trenton, with other Rutgers campuses having their respective student governments in Newark and Camden, and graduate students also have a separate body.

Fernandez said the Assembly also works closely with other Big Ten schools on major issues like lobbying Congress to implement rideshare safety laws.

"This March, when our delegation went (to Capitol Hill), they advocated for Sami's Law, which is a law on rideshare app safety in partnership with the 'What's My Name Foundation,'" Fernandez said.

Ramirez concluded, saying that the legislation and initiatives passed under the Assembly impact all undergraduates, and it is always advocating for students' future needs. Fernandez said that involvement for Rutgers students can change their view of their time at the University.

"If more students are vocal, if more students voiced their concerns, if more students say what they would like to see on campus, we'll really get a better Rutgers, and that's the way that our student government was designed to work to facilitate your needs as students," Ramirez said.

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