Gerhardt, Smith communicate policy changes

Student Handbook changes to protect victims of hazing; six new Senate projects underway

LESTER GERHARDT ADDRESSES ways to improve communication between the Student and the Faculty Senate.

On Monday, September 15, the Senate had discussions with both Lester Gerhardt and Mark Smith to discuss the changes that they would each like to bring to campus. Even though they had different end goals, the Senate was able to set aside time to speak to each of the gentlemen thoroughly. Gerhardt is the President of the Faculty Senate and spent his time talking to the Student Senate about how the two governing bodies may work together and increase their communications. This change was suggested by last year’s vice president, and is something that Gerhardt fully intends to work on. To show his intention, Gerhardt proposed the use of a time slot in which representatives from the two bodies may meet. In these smaller discussions, Gerhardt hopes to hear word of what is going right, and what is going wrong in each other’s governing bodies, and in the case of the latter, Gerhardt hopes to discuss possible improvements. The Faculty Senate president hopes to be aware of issues and challenges that the students face and hopes the Student Senate will reciprocate.

Dean of Students Mark Smith was then able to speak to the Senate about the Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the possible changes for the upcoming edition. He stated that although the changes were not going to be voted on today, he wanted the Student Senate’s feedback on the possible changes that were to come and how they would impact the student body as a whole. Smith first went through changes which were done in this past July and were concrete in the Handbook. This mainly dealt with the inclusion of hazing under the good samaritan policy which details how the Institute’s should respond to community members in distress. Now, in addition to alcohol use, drug use, and sexual assault, a student of RPI will not face judicial action if he or she receives emergency assistance or medical treatment in response to hazing.

According to Dean Smith, all around the country schools are receiving increased scrutiny from the federal government in terms of sexual assault. Smith reports that 77 colleges have pending investigations for sexual assault and rape and RPI is not on that list, and Smith intends to keep it that way. He states that the rewriting of the sexual assault and conduct section of the Handbook is currently in progress and he hopes to see that it is done by November 1. At this point, Smith brought up the idea of changing the Judicial Board’s role in cases of sexual assault. As it stands now, cases go directly to the Dean of Students office who decides a punishment such as suspension, expulsion, or other such detriments. The Judicial Board would then come into play should the student wish to appeal the decision on a number of grounds. While Smith acknowledges the board’s professionalism and candor with these cases so far, he does think that such a trial would be a huge burden, both emotionally and mentally, on young adults. Instead, Smith may implement a separate board with officials who are trained to handle situations of this type. These judges may be retired law enforcement officials who have training under Title IX, and would then be brought up to speed by RPI. Also, Smith is considering changing how the outcomes of these trials are published. The dean is considering publicly posting the results of these trials around campus to display the severity of these situations and how they are dealt with. President of the Union Erin Amarello ’15 brought up the effective measures used in RPI athletics. Athletics teams are able to meet with a staff of trained officials who deal with sexual assault and harassment. According to Amarello, this makes the statistics of RPI’s sports related sexual assault lower than the national average and supports the widespread use of these forces around campus. Shoshana Rubinstein ’16 requested to see a specifically stated list of rights for the advocates who are involved in Judicial Board cases.

The meeting ended with committee reports, starting with Grand Marshal Kyle Keraga ’15 thank to the council for their help in Hockey Line, to which he attributes the sale of more than 450 season tickets. The Academic Affairs Committee chair Marcus Flowers ’16, stated that his committee currently has six projects underway, including research opportunity listing, drop deadline investigation, and a syllabus catalog. Michael Han ’16, chairman of the Facilities and Services Committee stated that current projects included changes in the Mueller Center, an improved room reservation system, and general repair of crosswalks on campus. Morgan Schweitzer ’16, as both the head of the Community Relations Committee and representative from the Panhellenic Association, reported that RPI is invited to attend Sage Fest on September 27 and 85 women were given bids to sororities during this last weekend.