As a University loaded with multiple student organizations, the Rutgers University Student Assembly took steps last night to make their chapter more efficient in a competitive environment.
RUSA met in the Livingston Student Center with Butch Oxendine, the executive director of the American Student Government Association, who offered different methods to improve the organizations’ presence at the University.
“There are some big issues here at the University,” Oxendine said. “Students can’t tell the difference between RUSA from [biblical] Adam. So, I am going to give them ways to strategically get their name out there.”
ASGA is a nationwide organization that travels to any type of school, large or small, to give advice on how to improve its student government chapter.
“Each school is different and a big state school like [the University] has different challenges,” Oxendine said. “I come from the University of Florida which is one campus, so it shows how the University differs from others.”
RUSA President Werner Born said the opportunity to meet with Oxendine could not be passed up.
“We’re definitely excited to be part of this and to have Butch come by,” said Born, a School of Engineering senior. “We actually had [ASGA] review our new constitution that we are currently finalizing, so it was a huge help for the small issues we haven’t thought of.”
Oxendine said his organization provides a tool called the Student Government Effective Test, allowing ASGA to see how the student government is working. But he said there were two points RUSA must improve upon.
“Voter turn-out is a big problem at Rutgers,” he said. “I am going to give them ideas on improving voter turnout that are not gimmicks but tangible ways to improve it.”
Representative for the College Avenue Council Matt Cordiero said ASGA is vital to improving how things run in RUSA.
“There are certain things that we can be taught to have a more successful student government association,” said Cordeiro, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “So, if he knows how to run things, we should find out how to make a better student government.”
Associate Director of Student Centers and Programs Karen Ardizzone agreed with Cordiero and said the ability to speak with a representative like Oxendine is something that cannot be missed.
“I knew about the ASGA and reached out to them to see what they could offer,” Ardizzone said. “We heard really good comments from other schools from working with ASGA, so that’s how we decided to move forward and bring them here.”
Besides issues of voter turnout and lack of student awareness, Born said he really wanted to touch upon incorporation.
“Butch has experienced all kinds of different universities across the country, and some are incorporated and some aren’t,” Born said. “I definitely asked him to talk about it a little bit, and we’ll see what happens from there.”
Oxendine said non-profit student government chapters are actually quite rare. Out of the 5,000 non-profit chapters, about 50 are located outside the California area.
“They act as auxiliaries of the institution and, by doing so, they have more purview over their funds which they get from student fees,” he said. “But even there, it ultimately comes back to the administration to make the call.”
Oxendine said there is always a chance for a non-profit student organization, but they just have to try.
“Would it work here? Would it be better than it is right now? I don’t know, but they need to explore it here,” he said.
Despite efforts to split ties between RUSA and the University, Oxendine said RUSA is in a position that can only result in success — they just have to try.
“There is no reason why RUSA shouldn’t be extremely effective,” he said. “RUSA has so many resources at their disposable that they could become the best student government school in the nation.”