On Monday, March 24, the Student Senate met to discuss potential excuse policy changes. Several small pieces of legislation were passed. A new vice chairman for the Judicial Board was elected.
Kyle Keraga ’15 presented the Student Life Committee’s research and recommendation on the excuse policy. Currently, students wanting an excuse for an absence ranging from being away for sports or club travel to illness to family emergencies to religious holidays must document their excuse with the Office of the Student Experience. They must provide official documentation validating their absence. In the case of a medical issue, the medical director of the RPI Health Center is required to write a note. What the Student Experience website says is different from the policy outlined elsewhere, which may make it confusing for students needing to get an excuse. The current way an excuse works is that an individual goes to the Student Experience office in Academy Hall with documentation. An email can be sent for group excuses, such as a club trip, athletic event, or academic event. Regardless of the way an excuse is granted, excuses are then emailed to the professor of the class listed on SIS. This is different from what is in RPI’s official policies.
The new excuse policy proposal is more flexible. First, students can talk to their respective faculty member about the absence. If the faculty member does not need an official dean’s excuse, the process ends there. Should the faculty member need an official excuse, the student can get one from the Office of the Student Experience. Unlike in the past, if the student has proper documentation, they will definitely get an excuse. Another change is that medical excuses can be obtained through hospitals or personal physicians, instead of just the Health Center. Under both the current version and the proposed change, students have to talk with the faculty member about make-up work and assignment due dates.
Keraga and Grand Marshal Chuck Carletta ’14 pointed out that Student Senate cannot set administration policy. The excuse policy change recommendation is, according to Keraga, a precedent; Senate saw a problem with an RPI policy and is recommending changes to fix it. Keraga thanked members of his committee and members of the RPI administration who helped the committee with the suggested changes. The Senate voted 18-0 to support the recommendation. It went to the Office of the Student Experience about three weeks ago. Changes have already been made, but the Senate’s vote shows official support for the recommendation that the Student Life Committee has made. Senate and the Student Life Committee fully understand that their recommendations might not be the final policy.
After Keraga’s presentation, Orlando Hernandez ’15 was confirmed as vice chairman of the Judicial Board. Anthony Barbieri ’15 noted that the vice chairman should exist in the event that the chairman cannot make it. Barbieri said that Hernandez had as much case experience as he did.
An amendment to Senate by-laws was discussed and voted on. Currently, the vice chairman is the only officer of the Student Senate who has to be a regular senator. The secretary, parliamentarian, and treasurer of the Senate can be any student, senator or not. Paul Ilori ’17 expressed concerns since, in the case of the Grand Marshal not being able to run meetings, the vice chairman would take over, and he wasn’t sure a non-Senator could fully do this. Keraga noted that the vice chairman’s main duty in such a case would be to call a meeting to elect, from the voting members of the Senate, a new GM. Frank Abissi ’15 said that actually, the vice chairman assumes all duties of the GM without holding the office in addition to calling the meeting to elect a new GM. After more discussion, the motion passed 16-2, with only Ilori and Chase Krivo ’14 voting against it.
Rules and Elections Committee Chairman Timothy Breen ’15 noted some upcoming deadlines for elections. Shoshana Rubinstein ’16, Senate Communications Group chairman, said that there will be a summary of Union Constitution changes available at polling booths during elections.
The final meeting of the 44th Student Senate will take place next Monday at 6 pm. Additional Student Life Committee projects will be discussed and proposals voted on.