Student Senate approves jurisdiction changes

Dean of Students outlines situation in which changes would be used for off-campus incident

During its weekly general body meeting on Monday, the Student Senate voted on whether to show its support of the recent changes made to the Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities 2012–2014 by Dean of Students Mark Smith.

The changes, which were proposed to the Senate during its March 18 general body meeting centered around the Institute’s off-campus jurisdiction. The primary change involved adding a fourth condition to the section titled “Jurisdiction Within the Rensselaer Student Judicial System.” It states that, along with the other conditions which qualify an incident to be “Institute-related,” the following would also place an incident in this category: “The violation is a serious infraction that is likely to cause severe damage to the reputation of Rensselaer or the Rensselaer community. (Examples include, but are not limited to, malicious conduct resulting in egregious harm to others, conduct that may be construed as a danger to members of the Rensselaer community, acts of violence affecting the public’s safety and welfare, or possession, sale and/or distribution of illegal drugs or weapons.)”

The Senate’s motion, which was moved by Shoshana Rubenstein ’16 and seconded by Charles Carletta ’14, stated that the Senate officially “supports and approves of the changes made to the Handbook submitted to the Grand Marshal by the Dean of Students on March 4, 2013.” However, before the Senate decided on the motion, Grand Marshal Kevin Dai ’14 urged the senators to discuss the issue.

When asked for an example of when the change might be implemented, Smith explained that one such situation may be when a student urinates on a memorial located in downtown Troy. He said that, essentially, law enforcement occasionally defers to the Institute when dealing with students who have committed incidents, but the Institute does not currently have the ability to do anything, as such a case lies outside of the Institute’s current jurisdiction.

Regarding the issue of consequences, Smith explained that they “are not cut in stone.” He explained that the student in question would first go before the Rensselaer Union Judicial Board, “the primary court of judgment for cases in which the concept of RPI student rights, responsibilities, or conduct is in question.”

Kyle Keraga ’15, however, expressed concerns about having a board of students judge whether a student should be removed from RPI; he felt that there might be a conflict of interest. Smith assured, though, that either party in such a case has the ability to make an appeal. Eventually, if the situation warrants it, the president of the Institute would make the final decision. However, he emphasized that “[the Judicial Board’s] say carries considerable weight.”

Keraga continued that the changes to the Handbook were a little rough, but considering that the changes were made by the Institute, “this might be the best we’re going to get.” The Senate then called the motion to a vote; Kenley Cheung ’13 called for a roll call vote. Erin McAllister ’14 and Cheung voted against the motion, Parliamentarian Frank Abissi ’14 abstained, and the other senators at the meeting voted for the motion. The motion passed 9-2-1.

The Senate meeting on Monday was the last with the current members of Senate. For information on when the Senate will hold meetings under the next GM, students can contact the next GM via e-mail at