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GM explains upcoming controversy

The Senate formed an ad-hoc committee last semester to review the current Union Constitution and recommend any changes. It was proposed at the meeting that the two Independent Council senators who serve on Senate be removed. This alteration was recommended as the Independent Council itself is dissolving. Currently, the RPI Student Senate can have a maximum of 26 senators. There are four senators representing each class year, six graduate senators, two Independent Council senators, and two Greek senators representing Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council.

The committee explored the idea of removing the two Greek senators to balance out the vote between Greeks and independents. That discussion progressed to an ideological debate of whether any student group, Greek or non-Greek, cultural or non-cultural, women or men should have a senator that focuses specifically on their needs. This debate made its way to the Senate floor where a preliminary conversation on the matter occurred. Eventually, it was decided that another discussion needed to take place (on a larger scale) in order to get feedback from those who would be affected by this potential change. This led to the Student Senate hosting an open forum to discuss Greek representation on the Senate on Monday night from 6–8 pm in DCC 318. Specifically, the discussion was about removing the voting rights of the Greek senators because the Independent Council senator votes would also be removed.

The audience was largely composed of fraternity and sorority members who were concerned about losing their voice in the Student Senate. People believed that removing the IFC and Panhel representatives vastly narrowed the scope that the Senate represents. Many were worried that by removing these senators, the Senate would not be equipped to properly take care of Greek needs. People also expressed that there are many real issues which pertain to Greeks that require the presence of specific Greek senators. It was said that Greeks are prominent enough on campus to have voting rights on the Senate because they have two bodies to govern them, in addition to having an Associate Dean of Greek Life Commons, Matt Hunt. The Greek members in the audience stated that it was easier to get in contact with the Senate through the Greek representative. In addition, they felt they couldn’t approach their class year senators because they didn’t know them or weren’t as comfortable with them as they were with their Greek senators.

On the other side of the debate it was said that having a Greek senator leads to double representation for Greek life on the Senate. A student who is Greek can be elected to any class year senator position as well as a specific Greek senator position. Others stated that Greeks aren’t the only groups active on campus and that it doesn’t make sense for one group to have their own specific representative while others don’t. Greek members in the audience responded to this by saying that these groups should have a voting member on the Senate if they want. Others commented that this move would defeat the purpose of having an elected Senate whose members are not restricted by any affiliation. It was said also that not having a vote in Senate doesn’t mean that Greeks wouldn’t have a say in Senate activity. This comment stemmed from the idea of having a specific Greek representative on the Senate that couldn’t vote. It was also pointed out that if Greeks have any issues, it is the job of the Senate to listen and take action to assist them. This is their responsibility to the entire student body.

The forum lasted for the entire two hours allotted for the discussion and approximately 180 people attended. There were many thoughts and opinions expressed throughout the forum and I’ve attempted here to distill the most prominent ideas. The minutes, once approved, will be on RPI Flagship Docs under the 44th Student Senate for everyone to look at. The Senate will be voting on this issue this coming Monday, March 3rd along with other constitutional changes. If you have any questions, please contact me at gm@rpi.edu.