Rensselaer Union

Activity Fee: approved, then denied

GRAND MARSHAL KYLE KERAGA ’15 INSTRUCTS senators on the rules of how the vote regarding the Student Activity Fee will be enforced.

The Student Senate met last Thursday to discuss two important topics: changes to the Student Activity Fee and the Union Annual Report. Shoshana Rubinstein ’15 presented to the Senate to highlight important changes to the UAR and answer any questions that the senators had. Some of the changes included a $500 food cap for the fund that clubs are allowed to use to buy food for their members once per semester. The Union also agreed to subsidize food for club events lasting longer than five hours. When questioned, President of the Union Erin Amarello ’15 stated that the Executive Board felt that being unable to leave an event for more than five hours would require missing a meal, and thus require food for the event. Club travel was reduced back to its previous rate of 60/40, where the Union would cover 40 percent of travel costs. It was previously an even 50/50 split, but only because the Union had extra funds that they wanted to return to the students.

The first motion of the evening was to approve a raise in the Student Activity Fee. If passed, the undergraduate Activity Fee would rise from $625.50 to $644.50 and the graduate Activity Fee from $331 to $341 for a total of $658 for undergraduates and $353 for graduates. The motion was declared passed 13-5-6.

Next for discussion was the Union Annual Report itself. Senators felt the document was incomplete. There was much concern over where $200,000 from the Mueller Center budget was moved. Rubinstein clarified, saying that the money was moved into the administration budget as a consolidation of salaries from the Mueller Center budget. Justin Etzine ’18 was concerned that including only the previous year’s data in the budget might create potentially misleading percentages in budget changes. Other senators brought up small inconsistencies in the UAR, including as far as grammatical errors. Both Michael Han ’16 and Keegan Caraway ’18 suggested that information from questions during the presentation discussion should be added to the document. After the discussion, the UAR went up for a vote and failed 2-21-1.

Problems with the Student Activity Fee vote were raised after the meeting. Grand Marshal Kyle Keraga ’15 explained that, in 2013, the Union Constitution was changed to remove the word “total” from the requirement to pass the Student Activity Fee. “This was done with the explicit intent of only requiring two-thirds of members present and participating in the vote. The Senate has followed this interpretation for the Activity Fee vote for the past two years.” Thursday’s motion of 13-5-6 was passed with that interpretation. However, it would be a failing motion under the total membership requirement. Since this was an extremely important issue dealing with millions of dollars of student’s money, Keraga felt it was best to send the issue to the Judicial Board to determine the correct outcome and correct interpretation of the 2013 Constitution.

After meeting this past Sunday, the J-Board ruled that the Student Activity Fee vote had failed. The chair of the Judicial Board Anthony Barbieri ’15 said, “the Constitution specified a two-thirds vote of the Senate’s membership was required to pass. The Board concluded this to mean all members of the Senate as defined in the Constitution.” This also means that the GM is eligible to vote in similar decisions, as the GM is defined as a member in the Union Constitution.

Now that the Student Activity Fee vote has failed, Keraga plans to encourage the Senate to determine if they would like to vote to reconsider. If a motion to reconsider passes, the Student Activity Fee will again be up for discussion and a definitive vote. A motion to reconsider must be moved by a Senator who originally voted against the decision. If a motion to reconsider fails or the motion after discussion fails, the Student Activity Fee will stand as failed. If the vote passes after discussion, the proposal will be sent to the Board of Trustees for final approval. If the vote stands as failed, the E-Board will need to reconsider its proposed budget and present it again to the Senate.

Keraga says that the J-Board’s decision alters the way voting will be handled. “Allowing the Grand Marshal, President of the Union, or Judicial Board Chairman to vote in select decisions alters the landscape of how many decisions have been handled for the past several years,” stated Keraga. He hopes that any remaining ambiguity will be resolved through Constitution amendments proposed at GM Week 2015.

The vote tally for the Student Activity Fee motion is as follows: