Last semester was exciting. For once, the Student Senate was on the radar of the average student. The State of the Institute Report made waves, in part because of the infamous motion which included the phrase, “removal of Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson.” The Senate’s actions may not have had unanimous support, but at least they were taking action—or building up to it. These efforts culminated in an essentially disregarded recommendation to the Board of Trustees.
When we returned from winter break, our Grand Marshal was missing, and several active senators stepped down. The Senate has clearly lost momentum, and everyone seems to have forgotten about the problems.
The Senate’s concerns from last semester are still valid. While the administration has made strides towards improving communication, the message is still one-way, at the students. Rensselaer’s leadership structure is still more clumsy than agile. There haven’t been any significant budget changes to address the financial worries highlighted in the State of the Institute Report. The Senate did a fantastic job investigating and compiling these results for the Board of Trustees and Jackson, but the interpretation (and subsequent reaction) was confrontational, not constructive.
This semester, the Senate has a new GM and a new direction, but they shouldn’t just ignore the foundations they set up before break. We understand the importance of the current restructuring effort to streamline the Senate, but it’s important to remember the actual goals—addressing these issues they’ve brought to light. There’s still work to be done.
Of course, changing the Institute for the better isn’t the sole domain of the Senate—not by a long shot. Student government has done more than its part in researching and raising awareness on the problems facing our school. The rest of us need to step up, too.
We need to be informed. The findings of the Senate’s State of the Institute Ad-hoc Committee are still available online at http://docs.studentsenate.rpi.edu/documents/1701/. The document is full of information, and is worth at least a quick read. In addition, we need to inform those around us. Rather than scolding the uninformed, we should educate them.
This is our school, and we need to make our voices heard. Use the new channels of communication and talk to administrators about these issues. Show them how much you know, and that you’re concerned about this Institute. GM Week is coming up—pay attention to the candidates and vote for people who will make a difference.
This isn’t about pointing fingers or “taking back our school.” We don’t want a revolution. We want to work together—students, Senate, and the administration—to make Rensselaer as great as possible.