On Monday, the Student Senate met to discuss the potential changes within the Rensselaer Union Constitution and the GM Week Handbook for 2014. During its three-hour meeting, the Senate reviewed any suggested changes to the two documents and voted on their viability. While any changes in the Constitution need to be voted on by the Senate first, the final vote lies within the student body, which needs to approve the document by a majority vote in a valid election.
The first motion made at the meeting was by Independent Council President and Representative Frank Abissi ’15 and involved the dissolution of the Independent Council and the direct election of independent senators from this point on. Abissi stated that the Council has become obsolete now that a majority of the campus is not involved in Greek life, and the Rensselaer Union now serves the purpose of the Independent Council. Furthermore, the independent representatives will only be able to be elected by non-Greek-affiliated voting students. The motion passed with the only change consisting of a slight rewording to reflect historical accuracy.
After the motion to elect independent senators directly, the Senators discussed the Constitution Committee’s proposed amendments to the Union Constitution. The full documents can be found at http://poly.rpi.edu/12311. During the discussion, additional motions that were made ranged from correcting simple grammatical errors, to clarifying language so that no future confusion would ensue, to changes that would alter the very structure of student government.
A motion was made by graduate Senator Michael Caiola to keep the Graduate Council election process the same. The motion passed. Senator Gregory Niguidula ’15 then made a motion to alter the number of signatures needed to petition for a referendum to the Senate, as stated in article (13) section (1) of the Constitution. He felt that the current needed number of 20 percent of the student body was too high and suggested changing the language to read “15 percent or 1,000 signatures, whichever is lower.” This motion failed to pass, but a similar motion by Jessica Krajewski ’17 to change the 20 to 15 percent passed. Abissi made various suggestions for changing the language in the Constitution that infringed upon various legal borders, especially those concerning the role of student government in affairs of the Union administration.
Then, a motion was made by senator Christina Gilliland ’15 that would cause the removal of both the independent senators and the Greek senators. This very issue was the reason the Senate had called for a forum with Greek life on February 24 to discuss the implications of the removal of these representatives. Panhellenic Representative Lisa DeCresente ’15 stated that the removal of these four senators will severely reduce the scope of student government and will not allow the body to make the most accurate decisions. Niguidula, the former Rules and Elections committee chair, supported the idea of keeping the Greek and independent senators so long as they were elected directly and transparently. Rubinstein reminded the audience at large that regardless of the outcome of the motion, the senators elected from each class are always available to voice the concerns of any student, regardless of the senator’s various affiliations. DeCresente rebutted that while it is right and natural that the class senators should represent their class as a whole, Greek senators are needed to relay exact details from the Greek community. Furthermore, there are some student who wish to speak through their respective Greek or independent senator rather than their class senator. Kyle Keraga ’15 reminded everyone that having the Greek and independent senator positions was the status quo. With all senators having their thoughts heard, the motion to remove the Greek and independent senators was voted upon. The motion failed with Senators Gilliland and Clinton Mathai ’14 in the affirmative.
A motion was then made by Keraga to amend the Constitution to make it clearer that Greek senators are to be appointed by the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association by any method they choose. DeCresente also thought along these lines and reminded the Senate that since Greek life runs off of its own governing body separate from the Union, it reserves the right to determine the method by which it appoints its own representatives to the Senate. After all the discussion ended, the Senate passed the Constitution changes unanimously. The student body will vote on it during GM Week elections.
The discussion then turned to changes in the GM Week Handbook, which lays out the rules for candidates. Current R&E Chair Timothy Breen ’15 states that current changes to the Handbook include a total ban on chalk’s use for propaganda with a similar rule dedicated to the banning of animals. Senate passed the Handbook as well.
The meeting ended with committee reports. The Facilities & Services Committee stated that a snack machine has just been installed on the fourth floor of Folsom Library and a drink machine is soon to come. Gabe Perez ’16, chair of Web Tech Group, stated that after a meeting with Sodexo, new screens are to be expected in the Rathskeller to replace those offline.