Derechin talks history, role of Undergraduate Council

UNDERGRADUATE COUNCIL PRESIDENT JACOB DERECHIN ’15 EXPLAINS the history and current function of the UC as a uniting body.

The Undergraduate Council is a Student Government organization responsible for coordinating the class councils. It consists of two representatives from each class, plus a president. Its president is voted upon by all of the class councils in a meeting held by the Grand Marshal within two weeks of their election. Its representatives are then appointed by each class council. A president can only be elected at this meeting, according to the UC bylaws, and each of the newly-elected class councils must meet quorum among their eight class representatives for the election to take place. Due to the short timeframe involved with bringing this meeting together, the UC has not existed in several years.

Today, the UC’s role is to “unite and oversee the four undergraduate class councils.” This has, at times, included approving class council budgets and events, approving all amendments to the constitutions and bylaws of the class councils, assisting freshmen officers in becoming acquainted with their duties, and to help the freshmen class council draft a constitution. The UC also acts as the legislative body of the undergraduate class councils in areas not specifically designated to the Student Senate or Executive Board.

The UC previously had a much larger role than it does today. Originally, when the undergraduate student population was much smaller, the UC represented all undergraduates. The UC, at that time, contained the class officers and performed all the functions class councils currently perform, such as organizing the Winter Carnival, class gifts, senior week activities, and other class activities. As the undergraduate population grew, the four class councils were created. Over time, the powers of the UC were gradually devolved to the class councils, leaving the UC with a regulatory position for the class councils.

Last year was the UC’s first period of existence since the early 2000s, with Grand Marshal Kyle Keraga ’15 elected president of the Undergraduate Council. Under his leadership, the UC attempted to move back into event planning, which was met with resistance by the class councils. The Undergraduate Council thus determined its purpose to be null and void, and as a result, an amendment was proposed to the Union Constitution for the GM Week 2014 Elections which would remove the UC from the Union Constitution and provide a definition for class councils in the Union Constitution. This would have effectively eliminated the UC. However, due to the scandal over the poster removals by Student Government officials, the vote on the amendment was invalidated and postponed to be reconsidered in the futute.

However, this year, the UC, led by Jacob Derechin ’15, has redirected itself back to regulating the class councils, and has earned itself a reputation of legitimacy. At last week’s E-Board meeting, $50 was appropriated toward the printing of binders under the UC’s budget. These binders contain all useful information for newly elected members of the 2018 Class Council to function effectively, similar to the binders the Senate and E-Board make for their new members. Thus, the UC now has a budget of $50.

Moving forward, the UC aims to rewrite its bylaws, perform dearly-needed updates to its website, and work with the Senate and E-Board on several issues. The E-Board has formed a committee to formally define the relationship between the class councils and the Rensselaer Union, which the UC will have a part in. The UC will work with this task force on class council accountability, such as proper event planning logistics. The UC will work with this group to define what happens to remaining class council money after the classes graduate.

The UC will continue to meet every other Tuesday at 5 pm in the Student Government Suite. Last meeting, they passed a resolution to compose welcome binders for the Class of 2018 Class Council members. The Senate’s Constitution Committee will consider the status of the UC in its proposals this year. With the UC operating as a funded legislative body, it remains to be seen if this will be necessary.