Staff Editorial: Senate needs more power to remain relevant to students

Before Spring Break, the Student Senate passed a motion requiring all Grand Marshal and President of the Union candidates to have a 2.5 cumulative GPA. Soon after this vote, the Institute instated a rule requiring a much higher 3.0 GPA instead. While this is completely within the Institute’s ability, as prescribed by the Rensselaer Union Constitution, this action marks yet another chip away from the Senate’s already meager power. The Senate has now been reduced to a simple placeholder group, as it has even been stripped of the ability to govern itself.

Unfortunately, this is very typical for Institute-Senate relations. Recently, disagreements regarding Student Handbook changes proved that the Dean of Students and the administration can and will do what they believe is best for the Institute, with or without student approval. Going so far as to disband the Faculty Senate over disagreements regarding adjunct faculty, RPI feels no remorse in ignoring its constituents if it feels it to be necessary.

These decisions go against the philosophy behind the two senates. The population of Rensselaer should have a say in how it is governed. Changes to policies and rules should be considered with the opinions of students in mind. Because of the difficulties in gathering a full consensus or opinion of the entire student population to bring to the administrators, the Senate is elected and charged with conveying grievances and opinions to policymakers.

The students should elect who they feel is the right representative. The students should decide the requirements they want to place on the elected. The students should make decisions regarding the Senate, without the Institute stepping in. There may have originally been a reason to include the clause in the Union Constitution to allow for the Institute to circumvent a Senate decision, but this ruling seems more like an abuse of power.

The Senate is the most likely group to know its own limits and capabilities. If senators believed that it was not reasonable to expect a GM or PU to always maintain a GPA higher than 2.5, then we believe there was good reason for that. Service in student government, especially in a leadership capacity, mandates that focus be placed on areas outside of pure academics. The position bears a lot of prestige and responsibility. It takes a lot of work and grades do not necessarily measure potential.

By undermining the Senate’s power to decide its own policies, it seems the Institute has shown a disregard for student government.