Top Hat

GM discusses Green Revolving Fund proposal

Electronic voting system will be open source; Senate tabling in DCC this Thursday

This Monday in the Student Senate, Elizabeth Anderson ’14, chairperson of the Student Sustainability Task Force, presented progress on an ongoing proposal for the establishment of a Green Revolving Fund on campus. The Student Sustainability Task Force was established as a President’s Cabinet project, became a Senate subcommittee, and then a Union-recognized club. It has worked closely with the Senate, students, administration, and the surrounding community throughout its lifespan. SSTF coordinates other environmental clubs and works on major campus sustainability projects.

A Green Revolving Fund is a rolling budget used to fund sustainability projects on campus. GRFs center on the principle that an initial investment into energy-saving technology will pay itself back over time. Additional money saved will contribute to the Green Revolving Fund, to again be allocated to sustainable efforts. Over time, the fund averages out to negative cost—as the initial investment will not only pay for itself but contribute to the fund’s growth.

These programs have been successful on several campuses nationwide—such as Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University. SSTF would like to start a similar fund here at Rensselaer. Of course, a successful fund requires a promising, convincing, and successful proposal for its starting investment. SSTF is currently working on three such proposals—one for solar panels, two for other sustainable efforts. Sustainability is a critical issue facing our campus and our generation: if you’re interested in contributing to the greening of the RPI campus, email Elizabeth at andere6@rpi.edu.

We also heard from the Rules and Elections Committee about their ongoing progress towards an electronic voting system. Currently, all student elections are done by Scantron—however, continued maintenance, cost, and sleepless nights by the Rules and Elections committee have increased the demand for a quicker, easier, and less expensive system.

The system will ensure a rapid, secure process: students will swipe their RPI ID card to check their RIN against a database. If their RIN has been previously recorded, they will be kicked out of the voting process—otherwise they will be able to proceed. Students who are eligible to vote for one of two class years will be allowed to choose their cohort. After selecting cohort, students may vote for the best candidates in each applicable category. Of course, students may also write in candidates, as per usual.

When a student hits submit, two asynchronous calls will be made to the Union server. First, the student’s RIN will be added to a database table meant to track who has voted, avoiding duplicates and preventing students from voting twice. Second, their actual vote will be recorded with no association with the RIN. This will prevent duplicate votes, and make it impossible to break the integrity of the election process, by determining who voted for which candidates.

This software is being developed largely open-source: as such, in addition to internal testing, we’ll be inviting members of the RPI student body to stress-test the software. Mock elections and public sessions will be held early next semester. If you’re interested in being a part of the testing process, contact Anthony Barbieri at barbia@rpi.edu, or Rules and Elections Chairman Melanie Todis (todism@rpi.edu).

Additionally, this Thursday, the Student Senate will be tabling in the DCC Great Hall from 9 am–3 pm. Senators, E-Board members, and committee members will be available to talk about major student issues—from residence hall access, to Sodexo and dining services, to helping students connect with campus research opportunities. If you’re interested in any of these issues, or have other concerns to express, this is the perfect opportunity to connect with us and make your voice heard. As the year continues, we’ll be tabling every other Thursday, and postering bi-weekly so keep your eye out and don’t be afraid to get in touch—we’re happy to help. If you have any questions, come by this Thursday, visit me in my office hours each Wednesday from noon–3 pm, or email me at gm@rpi.edu.