Student Senate proposes carsharing

Data from Senate survey, peer institutions indicate usefulness

FACILITIES AND SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIR TINA GILLILAND EXPLAINS the car-sharing proposal being brought before Student Senate. Gilliland’s committee has been working on the proposal since last semester. Now that the Senate passed the proposal, it will go before the RPI administration for consideration.

On Monday, the Student Senate met to discuss and pass a car-sharing proposal prepared by the Facilities and Services Committee. Updated bylaws for the Graduate Council were also passed 20-0. The other Senate committees have continued making progress on their projects; excuse policy changes will be presented and discussed at the Senate meeting next Monday.

FSC chair Tina Gilliland ’15 presented the report that FSC made on carsharing. Members of car-sharing programs, such as Zipcar, can reserve a car. The members do not own the car but can use it temporarily. The exact workings of the car-share program vary depending on the provider.

As part of the proposal, FSC used data from the senate survey sent out fall 2013. Gilliland noted that 40 percent of students who filled out the survey said they would use a car-sharing program if one existed on campus. One-third of students surveyed said they had been unable to leave campus due to lack of a car. Gilliland noted that there was a long answer form for this survey question; reasons for interest were not limited to just entertainment, but included many other purposes.

Gilliland talked about the many benefits of carsharing, stressing that benefits include much more than just access to more entertainment. The results of the senate survey showed that the second-highest reason students said they would use a car-sharing program would be for professional reasons. Other reasons include traveling to interviews, conferences, or networking events. Additionally, students could participate in extracurriculars off campus. Gilliland noted that currently, when clubs travel, they will often use a member’s car. While that member might be reimbursed for gas expenses, the travel still does wear and tear on their car. Using a car that was part of a car-share program could eliminate those losses. Some students might have medical needs with travel requirements that cannot be satisfied with their current option (for example, seeing a specialist). Carsharing could also enhance communiversity—students could travel to nearby areas that are currently inaccessible or difficult to get to by bus.

FSC also researched car-sharing programs at local and peer institutions, including SUNY Albany, Carnegie Mellon, Boston University, Clarkson University, Cornell University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While some of these colleges are much larger than RPI, other universities researched are of similar size or smaller. Another method of gaining feedback that FSC used was through a presentation and discussion last fall on carsharing.

Gilliland noted that FSC had heard some concerns from the RPI administration over freshmen being part of the car-share program. The motion, passed by Senate 18-0, recommends that a car sharing initiative be started by RPI. The motion addresses this by saying “though it would be preferred all students have access to a car-sharing program at RPI, Senate survey data supports that a program has the potential to succeed with or without the freshman population” and “Therefore, the Student Senate remarks that a program omitting the freshman class would still be of interest and a benefit to the Rensselaer student experience.”

The full proposal can be found on Flagship Docs at http://poly.rpi.edu/38223. An article on the previous Senate meeting that discussed car-sharing programs is available at http://poly.rpi.edu/34045. The Senate passed a recommendation; the RPI administration is the body that can implement such a program.

Rules and Elections Chair Timothy Breen ’15 announced that 2014 election campaigning began Monday morning with info sessions starting Tuesday. Debates for the candidates are being organized. John Spangenberger ’15, Academic Affairs Committee chair, said that the project to compile publicly listed syllabi is going well. Senate-Executive Board Liaison Frank Abissi ’15 said that the E-Board had approved the Kung Fu club and reimbursements for Ski and Snowboard club. Gilliland said that, besides the report that was just passed, FSC had also gotten vending machines for the library. Student Life Committee Chair Kyle Keraga ’15 said that the excuse policy change recommendation would be presented at the next Senate meeting, with pharmacy and taxi recommendations the week after.

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