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Senate continues discussion on RPI issues

Over the past few days, we’ve seen a huge increase in awareness of the Student Senate and its activities. I’m not going to get into the content of our meeting or the magnitude of the conversation—I’m sure that’s covered on the front page. Instead, I’d like to discuss a bit of work the Senate is doing behind the scenes that led to the motion and discussion last night.

About a month ago, the Student Senate passed a resolution forming an ad hoc committee to investigate the “State of the Institute” and deliver its findings to the Senate in four weeks, during our last meeting. The Senate was then slated to vote on a position statement regarding the state of the Institute as it affected the student experience. While a lot of attention is focused on the controversial position statement right now, I’d like to emphasize that this is a starting point—this will be the foundation of the Student Senate’s actions and priorities during the remainder of the term. Along with the position statement, the Senate is planning to release an official report of the committee’s findings that form the base reasoning for the position statement.

The “State of the Institute” report was developed over the course of four weeks, with many senators putting in hours upon hours of time to do research, crunch numbers, discuss implications, and write up their findings. The report still needs polishing, but the Senate felt that it is important to spread its findings to any interested student; it is slated to be approved and released as a Senate-certified document next week. I’ve been extremely impressed with these individuals, both senators and non-senators, who have dedicated time towards this report, as it shows how passionate students are about making decisions based on reason to affect positive change in their community.

Senators who had participated in the ad hoc committee had a good understanding of the issues facing the Institute and had been discussing them with other students for the past month; however, for the senators who had not been involved in the process, preparation was needed before this Monday’s meeting. On Sunday night, instead of the usual Senate Cabinet meeting, the Senate had an optional, unofficial meeting that drew nearly two-thirds of our membership during which the report and its findings were discussed. This conversation was a long one—it finally ended past midnight after about 4.5 hours of conversation—but it was very valuable in clarifying the issues facing the students. The senators who attended this Sunday meeting brought their expertise and understanding of the issues to our meeting on Monday, which lasted a terrifying six hours.

Ultimately, the motion last night was postponed until our next meeting, but it wasn’t because the Senate was backing away from making a hard decision. Many of the concerns at Monday’s meeting centered around the need for more preparation—more time to talk to constituents about their opinions, more time to review the findings of the ad hoc committee, and more time to work through the different paths and possibilities themselves. Senators have put a lot of work into making this decision, with most senators spending at least 10 hours on this and many spending much, much more; we are dedicated to putting in the hours in order to get the best solution possible.

If you would like to have a conversation about this issue, please feel free to talk to your individual senators, e-mail JustAsk@rpi.edu, or contact me at gm@rpi.edu.