The Student Senate met on Monday, February 17 for their general body meeting to discuss the workings of the student government. The meeting opened with votes on the nominations for both the Review Board representatives and Judicial Board appointments. The Senate confirmed the positions of Spencer Pilcher ’15, Zachary Minster ’17, Christopher Notarnicola ’16, and Sophia Dantoin ’15 as members of the J-Board and Lisa DeCrescente ’15 as a member of the Review Board.
The meeting then turned towards matters that directly concerned the senators. Senator Gregory Niguidula ’15 was recently removed as the chair of the Rules and Elections Committee by Grand Marshal Chuck Carletta ’14. Niguidula approached the GM last week with the idea of running for his position in the upcoming election. At the time, this was simply an idea that Niguidula shared with the GM, yet the latter felt that immediate action needed to be taken. Due to the R&E’s chair’s close relationship with the election process, Carletta believed that there was a potential conflict of interest. To address this possible hazard, Carletta gave Niguidula the choice of resigning as the R&E chair, or being removed via the GM’s elected power. The vice-chair, Senator Melanie Todis ’17, assumed the duties of the chair, as per the Senate by-laws. Carletta made a motion for Senator Timothy Breen ’15 to become the official chair for R&E. Previously, Breen had stated his uncertainty for the position and requested his approval for the position only if Niguidula could not be chair. Furthermore, the senator stated that R&E was not his top priority, but would take the role of chair if only to keep the election process moving.
This situation then opened up to the rest of the Senate for discussion. Niguidula stated his position as chair of R&E would in no way affect the outcome of the elections, even if he was to run for GM. He stated that R&E assembles a Rules and Elections Handbook, which must be approved by Student Senate. The R&E chair does not have a vote in the R&E committee unless there’s a tie. According to Niguidula, it would be enormously difficult to make a change of significant importance. Furthermore, he referenced R&E’s recommendation to reinstate his position as evidence that the committee would lose ground without his involvement. Carletta responded with the fact that even if this was undeniably true, there is still an image to keep with the rest of the student body, an issue that would long impact the future of the Student Senate. R&E committee member coterminal student Jonathan Goldszmidt ’13 then took the floor and mentioned that Niguidula becomes no less qualified to run R&E now that his aspirations are now known. Furthermore, the GM could act on R&E and remove Niguidula later in the process if any allegations of bias rose. Goldszmidt then brought up the Student Senate by-law’s rule that one could not be both a member of R&E and a candidate for GM or President of the Union at the same time. To Goldszmidt, it seemed that this rule was being invoked prematurely, three weeks before the elections. After several similar points were made, Christina Gilliland ’15 reminded the audience that Niguidula had already been removed as R&E chair and the current motion was to instate Breen as chair, not Niguidula. At this point, Niguidula claimed that R&E was prepared to make a motion recommending his reinstatement should the Senate fail to confirm Breen as chair. GM week committee chair Ibby Ottman ’14 felt that the tie between R&E and GM week should stay strong due to their closely linked nature, and was concerned on how a replacement at this stage would affect GM week’s processes and traditions. Regardless of what body was chair, Ottman wanted it to be someone very dedicated to the event and would attend all required meetings. Soon after, Niguidula spoke again and added the fact that the coming weeks in the election process were crucial to its success. Also, he had not broken any by-laws by stating his prospective interest in the GM position. It was at this point that Kyle Keraga ’15 brought up possible position as advisor to the new R&E chair, although he stressed the importance of this change sooner rather than later. After many discussions that confirmed the fact that Niguidula would not be able to sway the committee as an advisor, prospective chairs Todis and Breen were asked to speak regarding this situation. Todis explained that no one in the committee would be able to fill Niguidula’s position in such a short time. Breen stated that while he was not expecting to be in this exact predicament, he would accept the role of R&E chair as well as any help Niguidula would give as advisor. With that being said, the meeting soon proceeded to a vote to pass the motion for Breen to become R&E chair. The vote, which needed two-thirds majority of the senators to pass, passed 15-5.
The meeting then proceeded into its normal business of the review of committees. The Chair of Student Government Communications Committee Shoshana Rubinstein ’15 reported that the group was currently promoting the new shuttle stop at 13th and Peoples Avenue. The Senate-Executive Board Liaison Frank Abissi ’15 relayed that the E-Board approved the start of a Foreign Language Club and for the overspending of the Ski and Snowboard Club’s budget. Keraga, of the Student Life Committee, reported work was currently in progress for a newsletter for the Student Health Center. Gabe Perez ’16 stated that the Web Technologies Group recently ordered a new television for the north lobby of the Rensslaer Union. James Whelan ’17 was recognized as IFC senator, and reported that 100 rushees signed bids this semester.