The Senate meeting on the first of December began with a presentation from the Academic Affairs Committee regarding progress the undergraduate research archive. Class of 2016 Senator Jessica Krajewski ’16 and project lead Elizabeth Anderson ’14 gave the presentation on behalf of the AAC. The project’s intention is to create a hub organizing the undergraduate student research done at RPI in both the past and present. Anderson stated that with this collection, students would see progress that has already been done, as well as the favored labs and professors for certain types of research. Krajewski reported that the Student Opinion Survey gave a positive response for this venture and some peer institutions have already incorporated similar ideas. Class of 2017 Senator Mason Cooper ’17 questioned which group within the administration would incorporate and host this archive. The duo clarified by stating that it could be housed under general undergraduate research, Folsom Library, or the vice president of research, based on the discretion of the administration.
The Senate was then presented with a motion from the Graduate Council which would require all senators to maintain a grade point average of 3.3. The motion stated that any student at RPI should put his or her academics first and members of the Senate had a responsibility as student leaders to “become the best version of themselves.” Should this requirement not be met, the senator in question would be removed from office. Likewise, students without a 3.3 GPA or higher would not be allowed to run. Michael Han ’16 brought up when previous Grand Marshal Charles Carletta ’14, discussed a similar motion. Han believes now, as he did before, that senators should not be held to a higher standard than the rest of the student body, as this would limit the pool of students that the Senate could draw from. Cooper questioned whether the inclusion of these statements would cause trouble in a future where the student body did not keep the same statistics on GPA while Class of 2018 Senator Justin Etzine ’18, claimed the statements were irrelevant to the GPA minimum. A vote to strike these statements passed with a vote of 16-7-1.
Returning to the motion as a whole, Cooper stated that immediate removal should not be the case instead he believed in a monitoring system until the GPA was increased enough. Interfraternity Council Senator James Whelan ’17 then made an amendment to change the 3.3 minimum to a 2.6 minimum. Graduate student Mike Cailola, graduate senator, underlined the motion’s intent to not limit, but rather strive to build higher standards after multiple senators brought up point against the GPA minimum. Han disagreed with the idea of giving to the motion and placing the minimum to a number which he found arbitrary. At this point, Gilliland made a further amendment to change the proposed 2.6 to a 3.0.
Class of 2016 Senator Shoshana Rubinstein ’16 took the floor and compared herself to the proposed motion. She cited her own academic success which did not necessarily correlate with a high GPA, a statement made to support the belief that a GPA minimum removes qualitative efforts. Graduate Senator Kristen Lee mentioned that the Senate was an extracurricular activity and students should not be spending too much time on Senate and its work and neglecting their studies.
A vote on the amendment to make the motion read 3.0 rather than 2.6 failed with a vote of 8-15-1. With the discussion returning to change the motion to read 2.6 instead of 3.3, amendment sponsor Whelan changed the 2.6 to read 2.66 to better reflect a B- grade. Audience member Joshua Rosenfeld ’16 was yielded time to make the suggestion that because the motion affected the entire student body, it should be brought to a student body vote rather than voted on by the Senate. The vote to change the 3.3 to a 2.66 was then called and failed with a vote of 7-10-7.
Class of 2018 Senator Keegan Caraway ’18 then made an amendment to replace the immediate removal with a probationary period in which the senator in question could improve his or her grades. Graduate Senator Spencer Scott said that there would be no time for a probationary period as the terms for senators only lasts for two semesters, a point which was echoed by Han and Gilliland.
Gilliland then made an amendment to strike the statement from the motion that allowed freshmen to bypass the minimum GPA requirement. To Gilliland, every senator should be held to the same standard, including freshmen and transfer students. Senators from the Class of 2018 brought up points that freshmen rarely know the environment they will get into once in college and often receive lower grades simply because of the other challenges they must face. Cooper made an amendment to the motion that would allow any student who did not have 32 institute graded credit hours to be excepted form this GPA requirement. During the discussion of this amendment, the Senate was forced to take a recess due to a lack of quorum incited by senators leaving the room until the membership dropped below 18 voting members. Once the Senate reconvened, a vote was called to approve Cooper’s motion, which failed with a vote of 1-12-9. Soon after, a vote was made to pass the amendment to strike the exclusion of freshman from the motion which failed with a vote of 1-12-9.
Graduate Senator James Gambino stated his belief that a high GPA has not been given its proper weight in conversations so far and that a 3.3 carries a good deal of influence in the professional world. A vote was called to approve or deny the motion with the proper amendments included. The motion failed with a vote of 1-16-5 via roll call.
The meeting then moved forward to the points of the agenda that were not yet covered. The discussion for the Meal Plan Policy Proposal and Referendum Election Rules were struck from the agenda by their respective sponsors in addition to the approval of the minutes from November 24. Attention was turned towards the lack of Arizona in Father’s Marketplace, an issue put on the agenda by Whelan on behalf of IFC. The motion put forward would recommend that Fathers does once again sell Arizona brand products for a $0.99 to $1.29 price point. Gilliland moved to strike all references to price in the motion, attributing faulty data as the cause. While graduate student Jen Wilcox stated that the Student Opinion Survey reflected an acceptance of a $1.52, Whelan stated that the IFC would prefer the stated price with a maximum price of $1.29. Joe Venusto ’17, head of the Hospitality Services Advisory Committee revealed that Arizona products were already in the process of returning to Father’s and that the mention of pricing in the motion will have little effect on the outcome. The amendment to strike prices passed with a vote of 14-3-4. In regards to the original motion, Han stated his disapproval that this motion did not go through Facilities and Services Committee which has a subcommittee to deal specifically with this issue. Caiola brought up the idea of postponing the motion indefinitely which was countered by Rubinstein who believed that the issue should be discussed as it came from a student. A vote was called on the motion as a whole which passed with a vote of 11-6-4.