A comprehensive breakdown of the RUSA Spring 2017 election


The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Taxes are almost due. It must be election season! Here’s a breakdown of who’s running for Rutgers University Student Assembly in the Spring 2017 elections. This annual election will take place from March 22nd to March 24th.

There are two tickets on which students are running: Rutgers Rise and Knights for Change. The Executive board candidates on those tickets are as follows.

This is a little background on the candidates before we get into their platforms.

Knights for Change

Vladimir J. Carrasco is running as President on the Knights for Change ticket and has been involved in RUSA as a Livingston Representative, Caucus Chair, Student Affairs Committee Member, Senator, and Public Relations Chair. He’s majoring in Political Science and is involved with organizations such as Circle K, Rutgers NO MORE and RHA.

Adeel Ahmed has been involved as a Rutgers Commuter Student Associations Representative, Student Affairs Committee Member, and Commuter Caucus Chair. He’s double majoring in Political Science and Philosophy and is involved in organizations such as RU Progressive as a Co-President, Rutgers Commuter Student Association, Ahlul-Bayt Student Association (ABSA), Muslim Public Relations Council, Rutgers One, and the Environmental Student Coalition.

Mustafa Jaffry is running on the Knights for Change Ticket and has been involved with RUSA as an SAS Senator, University Affairs Committee Member and Senate Budget and Finance Committee. He’s majoring in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and is involved in Ahlul-Bayt Student Association (ABSA) and Red Cross.

Rutgers Rise

Evan Covello (Left); Christie Schweighardt (Right)

Evan Covello is running as President on the Rutgers Rise ticket and has served as Vice President of RUSA for the past year. He is the Associate Director of the Association of Big Ten Students since August 2016 and prior to that he was the Big Ten Conference Liason. He also served as a Legislative Affairs Committee Chair from January 2016-April 2016. Additionally, Covello was a Livingston Senator from January 2015-April 2016 and prior to that a Livingston 2018 Representative (October 2014-January 2015). He’s double majoring in Planning & Public Policy and Human Resource Management and is involved in the Association of Big Ten Students, Rutgers for Phil Murphy and Rutgers NO MORE.

Christie Schweighardt is running on the Rutgers Rise ticket as Vice President and has served as a Chief of Staff for the past year. She also served on the Mental Health Task Force Chair from January 2016-April 2016 and was a Livingston 2018 Representative from December 2014-April 2016. She’s majoring in Health Administration and involved in Relay for Life as well as Colleges Against Cancer.

Shannon Chang

Shannon Chang is running on the Rutgers Rise ticket as Treasurer and has served as Treasurer since this past April. She was also a Big Ten Conference Liaison January 2016-April 2016 as well as a College Avenue At-Large Representative from October 2014-April 2016. She’s majoring in Finance and is a member of Delta Gamma.

Why do you think Rutgers students should vote for you?

Knights for Change

“Rutgers is an incredibly diverse university and in recent years RUSA has failed to represent that diversity. It is because of this lack of representation that Knights for Change was formed. We want to change the status quo and address the issues that RUSA has ignored. It has become a tendency that those in RUSA run on big promises and fail to accomplish them. For this reason, we have assembled a team of outsiders, who are student leaders from different organizations that are passionate to make a difference on specific issues covered in our platform. We will address the major issues in a detailed fashion by combating the complexities, of issues such as sexual violence and mental health stigmas, caused by the intersectionality of our student body.”

Rutgers Rise

This election needs to be about who has the experience in getting things done, and who has the vision going forward to execute what our platform lays out.  Rutgers needs genuine and ethical leaders to represent students.  We face a political and social climate more contentious than ever before.  Students need leaders that know how to bring the community together and solve the problems students deal with.  Rutgers Rise is the team that has shown we can put our words into actions, and that is because we have already been working on fixing some of the problems students face here at Rutgers.  Rutgers Rise is an entire team comprised of passionate students across our campus from various different backgrounds, that are experienced in taking on issues students care about.

What are some of the main issues you all have tackled in RUSA?

Knights for Change

“Within RUSA our members have advocated to get each RUSA member Bystander Trained with VPVA, we stood alongside Muslim students by creating legislation to stand against the travel ban, we forged a partnership with RHA to better represent students, we joined the fight against sexual violence by endorsing Rutgers NO MORE, we supported K-12 sexual violence education through a RUSA bill, we worked on the What’s On Your Mind survey to gauge the student voice, and partnered with the Douglass Governing Council to host a town hall. Each of these initiatives had students at the forefront by focusing on the challenging issues we face today.”

Rutgers Rise

Members of Rutgers Rise candidates for the executive board have lead student campaign to get Obama to speak at the 250th Anniversary Commencement as well as helped lead two national mental health awareness campaigns with the Big Ten. Moreover, they have helped efforts to lead the charge to get a student vote on our University Board of Governors and is working on bringing back The Alley, making Election Day a University holiday, put together a student organization town hall to help address the student organization funding problem and more.

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What do you have to offer to Rutgers that distinguishes you from the other candidates running?

Knights for Change

“What makes us different is that we are a team of outsiders! We are a team of student leaders from a variety of student orgs with a record of service on specific issues that are tailored to our platform. For example, we have members of SCREAM Theatre, Rutgers NO MORE and trained Crisis Responders who built our end sexual violence platform and will take the lead once elected. We also have individuals who are members of IDIA and Rutgers One, who are activists with knowledge of policy authorship which will help us lobby our state legislature. We are distinguished by our diversity, 95% of our ticket identifies as a member of a racial and ethnic minority. We believe that in order to make change for minorities we need to elect those who have been oppressed. We will represent the diversity of Rutgers which will allow RUSA to make more positive change.”

Rutgers Rise

“The Rutgers Rise team is different from others that are running in the election because of our experience, and our ideas.  The Rutgers Rise ticket is providing the most experienced ‘top 3’ candidates in RUSA history, which will eliminate the time needed to transition into those positions.  We are the only team that has publicly supported and has been working on getting a student voting representative on our Board of Governors.  We are the only team that has supported making menstrual hygiene products free to all students at our University.  We are the only team that has supported a University Holiday on Election Day, which will remove a large barrier to student voter turnout.  We are the only team that will demand that the University test the water for lead, which is incredibly unhealthy for students. We are the only team that has even mentioned improving academics in our platform and civic engagement. Additionally, we are the only team with women in our ‘top 3.”

How and why did you choose the name for the ticket you’re running on? 

Knights for Change

“We chose the name Knights for Change because it represents the very core of our campaign. We are Scarlet Knights who are passionate about creating change on campus. Our first step in creating change is by running to take back student government for the students and transform it into a hub for student advocacy.”

Rutgers Rise

“We believe that for true differences to be made, and for students to be heard, we need to work together and be a united voice.  In order to do that, it will take each individual student to find the will to rise for what they believe in.  Rutgers Rise is about empowering yourself and those around you to make a difference.  We should rise together to support survivors of sexual violence, to support getting more mental health resources, to support those who are struggling to pay the rising cost of tuition, to support those who don’t feel safe on our own campus.  There are so many problems that we need to fix, and if we all rise together then we will.”

What do you believe are some of the main issues students are worried about right now? How do you plan to tackle those?

Knights for Change

“Students face many struggles, one of the universal issues is college affordability. One way we will address it is by lobbying our state legislature. As a state university, we receive funding from the state which has dwindled over the years. By creating a student movement we will sway state legislatures to allocate funding to Rutgers to make a college education affordable. Another prevalent issue is sexual violence. 5% of men and 1 in 5 women experience some form of sexual violence during their undergraduate experience. It is time we end sexual violence, and the way to do so is by coming together as a student body to end rape culture. By educating students on being active bystanders we will create a community that stands and protects each other. In the same way, we will address the stigmas that surround mental health. By being educated, we will change the culture and be aware that language matters. We will advocate to increase funding for CAPS in order to better the services provided to students so that CAPS is easily and readily available to students.”

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Via Rutgers Today

Rutgers Rise

“Everyday, many students wake up and are worried about how to pay their tuition.  We are leading the fight to get a student vote on our Board of Governors which will allow students to have a real voice in the cost of our tuition, and we plan on improving communication from our Offices of Financial Aid and increasing the accessibility to Pell Grants.  There are students that need mental health resources that aren’t available, so going forward we will be working to increase the hours of CAPS, and create the Scarlet Knight Support Network, which will be the strongest grassroots movement to eliminate the mental health stigma that Rutgers has ever seen.  Rape culture is still prevalent on our campus, and our student government needs to promote more education and increase the knowledge of resources available to survivors.  We can do this by bringing the University together to take on ‘The Red Zone’ when sexual violence is the most prevalent, and end the mandated reporting policy in residence life to increase the resources that survivors have.  Students are also worried about their safety on campus, which is why we will work with RUPD to implement off-campus cameras to deter crime and catch criminals and will continue to work with the city to increase lighting in areas that need it.”

What would some of your main goals be for the 2017-2018 school year?

Knights for Change

“As stated in our platform and above, we will work to end sexual violence, end stigmas on mental health, and fight for college affordability. All of which we plan to approach by creating a student coalition on each issue. Student government should be an advocacy group, a place where students come together to make a change on campus and that it is exactly what we will make of RUSA. But our platform also includes methods to address the lack of Diversity and Inclusion requirement in the Core Curriculum, struggles faced by commuter students and much more.”

Rutgers Rise

“We want to make college more affordable, work to end sexual violence on campus, increase mental health resources for all students, and improve public safety. Additionally, we believe there are ways to make our University more inclusive: by making menstrual hygiene products free, and by implementing a diversity requirement in the core curriculum. We have an entire platform with many ideas on how we can better improve the Rutgers experience and strengthen the student voice.”

Are there any changes you’d wish to make in terms of pre-existing policy?

Knights for Change

“Something that we would like to change is the mandated reporting policy for Resident Assistants because students should be able to confide in their RA’s without being forced to go to the police without their consent. This is an issue I have personally worked on with Rutgers NO MORE which resulted in the President Barchi forming a committee to investigate the policy. We would also like to change the accountability and transparency policies in the hiring process of professional staff in the student affairs department, for example, the process to choose a new VPVA Director in which students were shut out of the hiring process.”

Rutgers Rise

“Along with changing the residence life policy on mandated reporting, we want to expand the medical amnesty policy to include student organizations as well.  This will ensure that fewer students will hesitate to call 911 when needed, and will help to save more lives.  We also want this policy to include drug use along with alcohol.”

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If there’s one thing you want Rutgers students to know before they cast their votes, what would that be?

Knights for Change

“One thing I would like Rutgers to consider is that if electing the same individuals would make a change? They only way for things to change is to elect new leadership with a new and more progressive and diverse vision. Knights for Change will put students back in the center on RUSA and focus on the issues that students find important because the way to build a better community is by being inclusive of our diversity.”

Rutgers Rise

“There are students on our campus that have to decide between buying books or food; students that are survivors of sexual violence that don’t have policies that support them; students that have mental health issues that cannot get an appointment with CAPS for weeks; students that feel unsafe on our campus.  Which team has the experience to take on these issues?  Which team has put together a platform and vision to fix the problems students encounter every day?  We encourage all students to take a look at our experience, what we have done, and what we plan to do side-by-side with other candidates.  We are confident that the Rutgers Rise team is ready to take on the challenges students face and care about.”

Remember to attend or watch the RUSA Presidential Debate on March 23rd. For more information, you can visit KnightsForChange.com and RutgersRise.com.

While the executive board is important, make sure you know who your representative is, and play a part in deciding who it’s going to be in the future. And remember, you don’t have to vote according to the ticket! Vote for the entire ticket if you believe in it, but feel free mix and match.

Here’s the link to vote.

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