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New Grand Marshal defines Senate goals

Hello RPI! I hope everyone’s semester is going well as we head into the first round of tests.

This past week, I have been meeting extensively with the leadership group of the Student Senate (the Senate Cabinet) and James Reed and Linda McClosky of the Archer Center for Student Leadership. These meetings have been extremely productive and have yielded a greater understanding of the Senate’s goals and plans. I would like to share some of the results of these meetings with you.

First off, we have defined clearer goals for the Senate Cabinet itself. According to Senate bylaws: “A Cabinet shall be led by the Grand Marshal and populated by the all Senate committee chairs and officers of the Senate. Its primary functions are to maintain working relationships and allow for healthy communication between chairs and officers regarding organization-wide business.” Despite this description, the cabinet had grown to include Senate representatives from different constituents, subcommittee chairs, and others. We have decided to return the formal cabinet to the vision set forth in the bylaws; reducing the membership to the GM, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Chief Information Officer, and committee chairs. This was done to make the cabinet more agile and efficient. While its formal size has been reduced, the cabinet will still meet with the other leaders of the Senate when appropriate. The main goals of the cabinet will be to facilitate inter-committee communication and to set a vision and plan for the Senate.

We have also discussed the goals and aims of the Senate itself, from basic objectives, such as to improve the experience of Rensselaer students, to defined committee specific objectives, such as the Academic Affairs Committee’s goal to improve the academic experiences and opportunities of Rensselaer students. In the coming weeks, we have set our sights on improving communication through a revamp of the Senate website, sending out a Senate Survey, holding Meet Your Senator, and other events, as well as increasing the productivity of our committees.

Every undergraduate senator is required to actively serve on two committees or chair one. The committee chairs and I have decided to renew efforts to make sure every senator is actively contributing to projects on his or her committees. In order to improve committee effectiveness and retention, we have also decided to explore ways to empower our members. Possible ideas include “live agendas” (committee members add to an online agenda before the meeting), team building and social events, work parties, and more personal attention from Senate leadership.

We in the Senate are also looking to improve the effectiveness of general body Senate meetings. This process is starting with incremental improvements such as publishing agendas and motions the day before meetings and posting minutes on flagship sooner.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback! Our plans for the semester are always evolving, so please do not hesitate to e-mail the Senate at JustAsk@rpi.edu or me at gm@rpi.edu. Have a great week!