Senate strengthens ties within Troy area

Schweitzer named Community Relations Committee chair; GrubHub assistance considered

MORGAN SCHWEITZER APPEALS for the re-creation of Community Relations Committee, left. Troy business improvement District’s Erin Pihlaja talks about her hopes for the upcoming year, right.

On Monday, September 8, the Student Senate convened at their weekly meeting to discuss the goings-on at RPI and how they, the student’s elected representatives, should take action. The meeting immediately began with a motion to reestablish the Community Relations Committee. This committee has not been in session since Grand Marshal Lee ’12, but according to Morgan Schweitzer ’16, there has been resurgence by the RPI community. Schweitzer took the floor to explain the history behind this project and general information about its purpose.

In recent times, Schweitzer stated that there has been a disconnect between both faculty and students on RPI’s campus and Troy and its college community. To help bridge this subpar support, Schweitzer believes that a partnership between the students of Troy and the city’s officials will help to mutually meet the groups’ goals. After meeting with Troy’s Business Improvement District office, Schweitzer found several solutions to the problem at hand, most of which centered around increased communication between the proposed committee and Troy. Via this communication, the amount of community service that was offered by the school would be streamlined, more consistent, and maybe even increased. Schweitzer hoped to keep a database in which the names of individuals and organizations could be kept who would like to volunteer for local service. In this manner, a two-way path of communication could be kept between both the volunteers and those who would request their services. Messages would be able to go directly from administrative offices in Troy to those interested in community service. This database would also be open to the RPI public for any groups or clubs that are looking for similar help. In addition, Schweitzer would also like the committee to organize a day in which a large community of RPI would help Troy en masse with a larger project. This would be both a symbolic and practical gesture of mutual assistance. All of the committee’s work would try to line up with Troy’s comprehensive plan for self-improvement and development.

The committee would be ad hoc and be reviewed at the end of the year, sometime in the spring. The committee would then be assessed and voted on to decide its future as a permanent committee or not. This group would contain delegates Troy for formal discussion to inform each other on progress made, the results of which would be reported during the committee’s weekly meeting.

Schweitzer reported that she has heard positive feedback for the possibility of this group and has at least six confirmed members should the motion pass. To increase membership, Schweitzer suggests the use of heavy advertising through flyers, social media, and general campus informing. Upon being questioned by Alexandra Rindone ’15, Schweitzer stated that the group would differ from other community service groups by using streamlined communication to reach out to students to put on larger and more impactful events with the city of Troy. The Senate passed the motion to create the Community Relations Committee with a vote of 17-0-0. A motion was soon put the floor that would make Schweitzer the chair of the committee which passed with a vote of 16-0-1.

The Senate then informally discussed the idea of allowing the food ordering company GrubHub to advertise and promote their services to the student body through an event on campus. The majority of the Senate believed that the service would provide a mutual benefit for the students of RPI and the people of Troy, as the application would be able to better inform students about various, off-campus food options. In addition, the event would only take up a 1,600 square foot spot outside. However, the Senate held off on voting to do more research to determine if the advertising event would be infringing on the school’s existing contract with Sodexo.

The floor was then given to the Associate Dean of Off-Campus Commons Cary Dresher and Executive Director for the Troy BID Erin Pihlaja. The duo was able to fill in the Senate and general audience about the progress that Troy has made in the past, and where they aim to go with the help of the newly founded Community Relations Committee. Because of their involvement with the city of Troy, both Dresher and Pihlaja have high hopes that the CRC could start a radical change in the student body. Pihlaja stated that ways the committee could start would be in public art projects. By detailing the city’s latest project, Pihlaja revealed that the TroyBot mural has become a large hit with the people of Troy. This work was done by first-year RPI students in their involvement of Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond. While along those lines, she also stated that the city would love to see more projects like Welcome Fest that directly involve the RPI community. She encourages student attendance at events like the Victorian Stroll, River Street Arts Fest, and Troy Night Out, the latter occurring on September 26.

The approval of the last week’s meeting was delayed until the meeting on September 15 in order to accommodate technical difficulties.