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Senate petition website prototype presented

Happy Wednesday, RPI. Thanksgiving Break is fast approaching, and with it, a final lull in classes before the semester’s last sprint. Remember to keep studying and get ahead in preparation for your last exams and even finals, but don’t be afraid to give yourself a break!

Among other events, this Friday, November 21, at 9 am in Mothers is the next Tidbits speaker, sponsored by TALKS and the Union Speakers Forum. This week’s speaker will be James Spencer, director of the Rensselaer Tech Park. Free coffee and donuts will be provided. Also, if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to see the RPI Players’ performance of Dracula this Friday and Saturday, November 21 and 22.. Among all the excellent performances by the Players I’ve seen in my time as a student, Dracula has been easily the most dramatic, well-acted, and enthralling.

On Monday, November 17, the Student Senate reviewed the results of the Senate’s student body opinion survey, as presented by graduate students and Communications Committee Chairman Jennifer Wilcox. The survey results measured student opinion on topics ranging from classroom feedback to dining hall satisfaction, to research interest, and even Arizona iced tea! These results will be posted publicly under the 45th Student Senate tab on http://docs.studentsenate.rpi.edu, as well as on Reddit and Facebook.

Gabe Perez ’16, chairman of the Senate’s Web Technologies Group presented progress toward creation of an online petition website similar to the White House’s “We The People” page http://whitehouse.gov/petitions, or http://change.org/petitions. Entering into this year, it has been my priority, and a high Senate interest, to create a system students may use to bring issues to the attention of the Student Senate and RPI administration and a process these students or groups may use to gain Senate support for their causes.

Early this semester, Kenley Cheung ’13, a passionate alumnus of the Student Senate’s Web Technologies Group and of RPITV, brought to our attention that Rochester Institute of Technology’s current student government has implemented a similar system through their open-source PawPrints platform. We have begun adapting this platform for appropriate use on the RPI campus. To this end, we are excited to be collaborating with RIT officials as we pursue the site’s development through our Web Technologies Group. Communicating with another school’s student government has been a great experience and an invaluable opportunity to learn from other leaders.

On Monday, November 17, a working demo of the petition site was demonstrated before the Student Senate, integrated with RPI RCS ID authentication to maintain security, and with the petition process altered to match appropriate standards for the Rensselaer community. When a petition reaches the appropriate threshold, it will be brought before the Senate for a vote. At that stage, the Senate may vote to take one of several courses of action, ranging from holding a referendum election, to immediately supporting the petition, to deferring the petition to a committee, and so on. If supported by the Senate, a Senator will be assigned to investigate the petition and pursue its cause.

This discussion was preliminary and there are still many decisions to be made. Through interaction with RIT’s student government, we’ll be discussing and reviewing the site’s moderation policy, governing what petitions are deemed appropriate or valid, as well as integration into the Rensselaer Union Constitution’s petition process, site maintenance, and more. If you’re interested in this topic, please contact Perez at perezg2@rpi.edu, or myself at gm@rpi.edu.

Finally, just a reminder that the Pass/No Credit deadline is November 25—that is, next Tuesday, November 25, or the final day before Thanksgiving Break. This is the final day RPI students can add or remove Pass/No Credit designation from classes. This option exists to encourage students to take difficult courses without fear of damaging their GPA and to give students who are struggling in a course a better option than withdrawing. If you’re considering switching one or more courses to this designation, you may learn more at the registrar’s site at http://registrar.rpi.edu/update.do.

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