On Monday, March 4, the Student Senate held its weekly general body meeting. On the agenda were several motions, including one which covered the issue of GPA requirements for the Grand Marshal, President of the Union, and senators in general.
The motion held that the GM and PU would be required to hold a cumulative GPA of 2.5, while other senators were expected to maintain a 2.33 GPA. These would be checked at the end of each semester.
Discussion began with Vice Chair Charles Carletta ’14, who explained to the Senate that the motion was a “carry-over from last year.” During the previous academic year, the concept of setting minimum GPA requirements for senators and the GM was discussed, but the original motion was voted down. Carletta also stated that, basically, the GPA requirements “will be instituted no matter what,” but that the motion would allow the situation to be settled on the Senate’s terms. He added that the Rensselaer Union Constitution allows for the passing of the motion, which would function as legislation rather than a change to the Senate’s bylaws or the GM Week Handbook, with a simple majority vote. Additionally, the changes made by the motion would be implemented immediately.
Chair of the Senate Communications Group Christina Gilliland ’15 then moved to amend the motion to change the wording regarding the second point of the motion. The change would require all other members of the Senate to hold a 2.33 GPA instead of just senators. Gilliland’s reason for the amendment was to include committee chairs, who don’t necessarily have to be senators. Greg Niguidula ’15 expressed his agreement with Gilliland’s amendment, as did Elizabeth Anderson ’14.
Chair of the Facilities, Finance, and Administration Committee and Independent Council Representative Frank Abissi ’14, on the other hand, disagreed because the change in wording would include representatives from the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Council, and the Independent Council, which would require a change to the Senate’s bylaws. When Gilliland asked why the Senate could not hold these representatives to the same standards, Erin McAllister ’14 explained that these individuals are subject to their councils’ own constitutions and bylaws. IFC Representative Roland Judd ’14 and Panhel Representative Lia DeCrescente ’15 stated, though, that they already have GPA requirements of 2.5 and 2.8, respectively. Rules and Elections Committee Chair William Toth ’13, who also disagreed with the amendment, added that committee chairs are not elected to their positions.
The amendment then went to vote, which resulted in a tie at 6-6-1. GM Kevin Dai ’14 settled the vote by deciding to vote against the amendment.
Niguidula then proposed an amendment to change the wording of the motion to say “QPA,” for quality point average, rather than “cumulative GPA” in order to “match the language that RPI uses.” However, Student Life Committee Chair Kyle Keraga ’15 explained that the two values are different, and the motion subsequently failed.
Web Technologies Group Chair and Senate Chief Information Officer Kenley Cheung ’13 then asked whether the motion interferes with the Union Executive Board’s bylaws by setting a GPA requirement of 2.5 for the President of the Union. PU Jonathan Stack ’13 explained that this portion of the motion was just a formality, and that the PU is already required to have a 2.5.
Toth then moved to change the motion to make it an amendment to the Senate bylaws. Abissi, though, disagreed. He reiterated Carletta’s statement that the Union Constitution allows for the legislation and that the “GM Week timetable justifies having the motion be a resolution rather than an amendment.” After additional discussion, Toth agreed and rescinded his amendment.
Gilliland then moved to change the GPA requirement for general senators to 2.5, rather than 2.33. Anderson expressed concern regarding this change, stating that she felt a 2.5 was too high for senators. Senate/E-Board Liaison Gretchen Sileo ’14, on the other hand, stated that E-Board members are required to maintain a 2.5 and that she thinks the GPA requirement should be standardized for members of student government. McAllister mentioned that she thought it was “a good idea to have a GPA split to represent different time commitments.” Abissi agreed with the motion, as well, stating “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hold senators to a 2.5.” Director of the Union Joe Cassidy provided perspective on the situation stating that the goal of students should be to achieve the highest GPA possible. Following additional discussion, the motion to change the GPA requirement for senators from 2.33 to 2.5 passed.
McAllister then asked how exactly GPAs would be looked at and how the resolution would be enforced. Cassidy addressed these points by explaining he takes the names of senators and runs them through the Dean of Students Office. The Dean’s office then informs him whether these students are eligible to hold office. He does not, though, receive specific details regarding the students’ GPAs.
Shoshana Rubenstein ’16 asked how this would work for freshmen, as they do not have RPI GPAs during freshmen elections in the fall. Abissi stated that the GPA check for freshmen would only occur at the end of the semester or during re-election. Stack also addressed this point later in the meeting.
Gilliland then moved to increase the GM and PU GPA requirements to 2.8. McAllister disagreed, saying that 2.8 was too high. She added that a student with a 2.5 cumulative GPA “is not in danger of failing.” When asked by Gilliland, Cassidy stated the average GPA was “close to a 3.1.” Abissi, though, stated that students of different majors may have more or less difficulty achieving the Institute average. To determine the truth of that statement, Cheung asked Cassidy about the standard deviation of student GPAs. Cassidy, though, did not have that information on hand. Anderson expressed concerns about a 2.8 requirement, as did Stack, who said a 2.8 would have restricted several GMs and PUs in the past. After further discussion, the amendment went to a vote and failed.
The final potential amendment focused on whether to check senatorial GPAs after each semester, as the motion suggested, or just at elections. McAllister stated that, if the point of the motion was to help continuity, then it should only be checked at election. Anderson agreed with her point. But, Abissi, Keraga, and Rubenstein felt that GPAs should be checked each semester. The amendment failed, keeping the semesterly GPA checks.
The motion was then passed 8-4-1, although several senators expressed discontent with the fact that the vote happened when it did. Toth subsequently proposed a motion that would add the GPA requirement to the GM Week Handbook. The motion passed 12-0-1.
For more information about the new GPA requirements for GM, PU, and senators, contact the Senate via e-mail at JustAsk@rpi.edu.