President of the Union: Frank Abissi

Editor’s note: In light of the poster removal scandal, the Editorial Board reconsidered a motion made at their March 30, 2014 meeting. The reconsidered motion failed, and the following endorsement should be considered invalid.

The Polytechnic endorses Frank Abissi ’15 as President of the Union following reviewing submissions from and interviewing with all candidates. The President of the Union is the second highest elected student official at RPI, and leads the Rensselaer Union E-Board, the chief financial body for the Union. The Executive Board creates the Union’s budget each year, and influences club budgets and the Student Activity Fee. As a result, the PU holds a significant amount of responsibility.

Abissi has immense experience in RPI Student Government from his work as both an E-Board member and Independent Council senator in previous years. This past year, Abissi served as Senate-E-Board liaison and chairman of the Senate’s Constitution Committee. We strongly feel that his experience with both branches of Student Government at RPI will allow him to be a great President of the Union. That, combined with his clear plan for action and change within both the E-Board and campus as a whole, results in someone who we believe to be the ideal candidate for the role.

A major concern across campus has been the ever-growing enrollment, and therefore how the increased Student Activity Fee funds will be used. Abissi believes that these funds should not necessarily be held idle in reserves as those are already at a good level. Some of the ideas Abissi has to use these new funds include capital improvements for Union facilities such as room renovations, or to expand or create new club budgets. While implementing this, Abissi’s plan is to not cut any existing services offered by the Union. He recognizes that any increase in cost of attendance can pose a financial burden; however, he shares the view with us that a marginal increase should be favored over cutting widely used programs.

Abissi has some detailed plans of how he will tailor the E-Board to fit the needs of campus in the best ways possible. One highlight would be a change to the way committees work within the board. Abissi feels that the E-Board committees system could use restructuring, because committees often have little to do at various times throughout the year, and therefore become unnecessary and unproductive. To change this, he hopes to implement a system where, instead of having various standing committees, he can appoint board members as vice preidents in various areas of expertise, and when an issue related to that area arises, the vice president can create a temporary committee to address and hopefully solve the issue. We believe this structure, if implemented correctly, would be much more efficient. Another change to the board Abissi is passionate about, is to ensure it becomes as diverse in membership as possible; he doesn’t want one type of club, say productions, to be over represented, and another type to be left out. While, of course, it will come down to which people apply for the board, we feel Abissi seems dedicated to making this change if possible.

Abissi also has plans to tailor his Board after they are appointed, which includes ensuring they understand that their job as a representative for a club is not to just work on said club’s budgeting, but also to keep them fully informed on legislation changes passed, or which may be passed, by the E-Board. We have heard directly from clubs that Abissi has represented in the past during his E-Board tenure that he has done exactly this, yielding positive results. Keeping clubs informed will lead to improved club preparedness for budgeting changes, which will promote club growth.

Abissi has an incredible plan for a new campus-wide initiative to improve club involvement. Modeled after crowd sourcing services like Kickstarter, a new website, when implemented, would raise participants rather than funds for club activities. Basically, when clubs have a new project they will be starting soon, they can create a project on the site which any member of the Rensselaer community can then join the project if interested. Abissi believes that, if implemented correctly, this new system could allow clubs to have more successful projects, along with involving people who may have never participated otherwise. While this could completely change the dynamics of clubs on campus, it could also truly improve overall extracurricular participation at RPI, allowing for clubs to have their core membership, but also gain assistance from fellow students
with a common interest in a large project.

Other than Abissi’s ideas, we also found great qualities in his personality. During our interviews, Abissi was composed. He is committed to the position of President of the Union, and is prepared to devote his time and handle the pressure that comes with the position. Abissi has concrete plans and has a solid vision of how he wants to accomplish them.
While we feel that Abissi would be the best choice for President of the Union after hearing from all candidates, in the end it comes down to the student body that goes out and votes during GM Week. To learn more about Abissi and his platform, see http://poly.rpi.edu/67580 for his own detailed responses to our questions.