The Student Senate met Monday to go over the Union Annual Report. The UAR is compiled by the Executive Board. Included in it is the Student Activity Fee recommendation for the upcoming year. The Student Senate approved the recommendation made for Fiscal Year 2015, which has been sent to the Board of Trustees for final approval.
Senate-Executive Board Liaison Frank Abissi ’15 began the presentation of the UAR and the recommendation of the activity fee. Abissi said that, “As a general overview, for income, we have 4.3 million in projected income this year, 85 percent of that coming from the activity and 15 percent of that coming from income from business operations.” Business operations include places like the Rathskellar, the Campus Unisex Hair Salon, and SEFCU.
Abissi then explained the general changes for the proposed budget. There will be an overall reduction in the share for athletics with an increase in share for the Union Administration Office budget. Club program expenses have gone up; required club income has decreased. Several new policy changes have been made to the budget.
Poly Credits, which are given to clubs so they can run ads, have been given a monetary value to help keep track of accounts. This change did not affect clubs’ total subsidies in any way. According to Abissi, this will “help maintain The Poly’s independence.” Food at weekly club meetings will no longer be subsidized, with non-multicultural clubs having access to their Reception Fund only once a semester. Multicultural clubs will still get funding for special programs but no reception fund.
The decision that food for club meetings would no longer be funded turned out to be one of the most controversial, as evidenced by online posts and questions by attending students at the Senate meeting. Kyle Keraga ’15 expressed concern that several of the affected clubs, including UPAC Cinema and RPI TV, used food for more than general business meetings, and denying food in their budget could have adverse affects. Keraga used UPAC Comedy as an example, as they lost many members after their food funding was lost. Keraga asked whether the E-Board could investigate the effects of this change on clubs. Abissi noted that the change was made after careful consideration by the E-Board. Keraga also asked whether future E-Boards could reach out to club officers for opinions on this matter during budgeting. Abissi noted that, due to elections, there was no way of knowing who would be on E-Board next year.
Michael Gardner ’17 voiced similar concerns, particularly about the Players. According to Gardner, the Players use their food budget at work parties to encourage volunteers to help build sets, make costumes, and ensure that productions will be staged in time. Gardner was concerned that no food at these events would lead to a decline in number of volunteers and affect the entire process that the Players have set up.
Gardner also said that “I don’t believe that you should treat all groups the same, because all groups don’t operate the same.” Abissi explained that clubs are treated differently; service clubs, such as UPAC, receive a much higher subsidy. Abissi also stressed that, “the merits of each were considered independently,” with regards to food and travel.
The E-Board responded that the time for appeals is over and all changes to the budget have been communicated with club officers. President of the Union Gretchen Sileo ’14 stated that the E-Board upheld their decision for clubs that appealed their food budget. After a request from Keraga and Gardner to provide flexibility for affected clubs, Abissi explained that although the appeal time was short, some groups did make the requests on time and it would not be fair to open up the process again. Sileo then stated that proposals can come before the E-Board from any club at any time.
Questions were raised about Flagship Docs, which is where many student government documents can be found. Grand Marshal Chuck Carletta ’14 explained that “Flagship [Docs] is an RPI-specific Google Drive.”
The meeting then progressed into further changes in the budget. Individual club funds for instruments will be replaced with an overall budget for the Rensselaer Music Association to use. This will allow for better tracking of the budget and an increased inventory of RPI instruments. Instructors and coaches for all clubs will no longer be hired as independent contractors, but will instead be given benefits. This change did not negatively affect club subsidies. There has been an increase in the income from ice hockey due to a reduction in the ticket’s surcharge. In preparation for the 125th anniversary of the Rensselaer Union, funds have been allocated.
Shoshana Rubinstein ’16 inquired as to the potential plans for the now unused mailroom in the Games Room. Sileo responded that as of now, there are no immediate plans, but with the 125th anniversary of the Union coming soon, it is important to make the most use of the space in the building.
After the presentation by Abissi on the UAR, Senate voted on whether to approve the E-Board’s recommended Student Activity Fee for 2014–2015 . The motion passed 17-1. The recommended activity fee now goes to the Board of Trustees for approval. The recommended Undergraduate Activity Fee (not including class dues, which are separate and add $13.50 to the total for undergraduates and $12.00 for graduates) would increase by $20.00, putting it at $625.50 and bring the Graduate Activity Fee to $331.00 via an increase of $9.00.
The meeting then continued with Carletta leading the way for new Senate business. He explained his plan of making a subcommittee with Senate members and Greek Life members to discuss potential Union Constitution changes. Gregory Niguidula ’15, Rules & Elections chair, reported that the committee is making a new video to explain the election’s process and rules. Keraga said that the Student Life Committee is continuing work on developing the excuse policy, investigating the possibility of an on-campus pharmacist, and continuing working on transportation options. Graduate student Peter Muller said that the Graduate Council successfully held their first Pub Night for graduate students.