RUSA Sexual Assault Committee

Last week, the student government of Rutgers University- New Brunswick refused to take action on sexual assault by voting against a bill to create a permanent sexual assault committee in RUSA (Rutgers University Student Assembly).

For the past year, I have been working on combatting sexual assault at Rutgers as the Chair of the Sexual Assault Task Force in RUSA. Task Forces dissolve after one year and no further action was taken by the Assembly. Based on the work of last year’s task force, I found that the task force structure was lacking and insufficient to make the type of long-term change that sexual assault requires. When some of my peers and myself tried to take action by writing a bill to create a sexual assault prevention permanent committee in RUSA, the executive committee didn’t even let the bill go to the floor to be debated by the general body. Let me emphasize, last year not a single bill was barred from the floor.  

When this bill was refused, I tried to compromise by writing a bill that I didn’t believe in or think would have the capability to handle sexual assault. This bill called for the creation of yet another temporary committee.

When this bill reached the floor, I was relieved when one of my fellow RUSA members, Christina McGinnis amended the bill back to its original form as a full-on standing committee in RUSA. I quickly accepted the amendment—permanent committees are long-lasting components of RUSA that long-term efforts, compel accountability, and actually receive support from the student government. No other options in RUSA are long term, only a permanent committee can do this, which is why this really is the best possible solution. Sexual assault is not an issue that goes away after a year or two, this is a long term problem that requires long term work. The temporary structure is great for exploring an issue, however, after a year of exploration, it’s time to start working on larger and more long term projects to tackle the issue. As a permanent committee, this ensures that sexual assault cannot be ignored like it was as a temporary committee, and gives sexual assault a place on the executive committee.

Immediately after Christina’s motion, Vishal Patel, the treasurer of RUSA, tried to amend the bill back to a temporary committee. After a lot of debate, his motion thankfully failed and the bill proceeded as a standing committee.

After Rutgers’ work with the White House, the iSpeak survey, and Dr. McGinty’s new campaign The Revolution Starts Here: End Sexual Violence Now, you would think that a bill calling for the student government to work on sexual assault would be met with universal support.

This was not the case.

The bill needed to pass by a two-thirds vote, however, after a vote of 14 yeses, 8 nos, and 9 abstentions, the bill failed.

Meanwhile, last year it took RUSA less than half an hour and minimal debate to pass a bill creating a standing committee for athletics.