Candidate questions

President of the Union: Gregory Bartell and Andrew Sudano

Why do you want to be President of the Union?

Bartell: Student government needs a fresh pair of eyes. I have experience with club administration, and I want to help enable other clubs in the same way I’ve enabled mine. I’ve been through the struggle of learning how to manage a club’s finances; working through all sorts of confusing multi-year projects and forgotten line-items that no one remembers the purpose of. I know how working with the EBoard goes, and I have big plans to improve it.

I’m running for President of the Union because I want to bring my experience to the EBoard. I want to engage students and club officers, and I want to help them achieve their goals. I’m striving to build a cohesive, collaborative environment focused on allowing students to do the things that they want to do.

Sudano: The goal that I see as most pressing, which I hope to achieve as I want to become President of the Union, is to help Rensselaer students obtain the most out of the Rensselaer Union that they possibly can. While serving as a representative on the Executive Board this past year, I have seen first-hand the incredible potential that exists within the Union and the services available to students. Through my time on the Board, I have gained a greater appreciation and passion for helping students and clubs in any and every way possible. If elected, I will create and lay the framework to maintain an open atmosphere of student creativity and initiative. I envision a Union where everyone’s ideas and opinions are heard and where each student has the ability to explore and benefit from everything they possibly can from the Rensselaer Union.

Describe your experience in Student Government.

Bartell: I’ve come into student government indirectly. I’ve been a business manager for WRPI for two years now, and I’ve seen how the budgeting process works. I’ve seen how EBoard representatives get things done, and I’ve also seen the ways in which they don’t. Having seen the whole process from the outside gives me a bit more of a well-rounded experience than if I had only been involved from the student government side.

Sudano: My passion for the Executive Board, for student government, and for improving the lives of my fellow students began when I met with Erin Amarello, the current President of the Union. We had sat down at 2AM three days before the previous GM Week election. There, we discussed about the job of a member of the Executive Board was and what she foresaw the future of the Executive Board. It was during that meeting that I decided to apply for the Executive Board, which I credit as one of the best decisions I have made during my time at RPI. Once appointed, I began devoting a large portion of my time towards the Executive Board and the clubs that I have been representing this year. Because I deem being deeply involved as very important for making an impact, I have served on five committees over the course of this year. The first committee I joined was the Marketing, Advertising, and Promotions Committee. There we put together a new posturing police in order to clean up the billboards in the Rensselaer Union. The goal of the committee was to clean up the Rensselaer union so that it could be as aesthetically pleasing as it could be. Second, I joined the Undergraduate Council Task Force. There, we helped analyze and suggest policies and legislation for the Undergraduate Council. Next, I was a member of the Union Constitution Committee. On that committee I helped shape the future of the Rensselaer Union. I was a member of the Rensselaer Union Annual Report Committee. I came on to this committee later on, when the Union Annual Report got voted down on the floor of the senate, to help finalize what the UAR would look like and offer and support that I could. And lastly, I am a member of the Undergraduate Council Bylaws committee. On that committee I helped create a set of guidelines for the future of the Undergraduate Council.

List your campus activities, including levels of involvement, positions held, and awards received.

Bartell: I have been business manager for WRPI for two years. I’ve learned how to manage a team, how to communicate with the Union, and how to get things done in this world. I’ve definitely learned how to say no to things that we need but can’t afford, and I have had no choice but to prioritize heavily. Those skills would certainly come in handy as PU. In addition, I’ve made some valuable connections in the Union and have picked up quite a bit of social knowledge in my time.

Sudano: Outside of the Executive Board and other student government committees, I am also a Research Assistant within the Physics Department. I have also previously served as News Editor for the Rensselaer Polytechnic. Next, I was a Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education Mentor. I am also a Teaching Assistant for Physics 2. Next, I am the Historian and Information and Technology chair for Zeta Psi. Lastly, I am a member of the RPI rugby team.

Name three short-term (within your term of office) goals and three long-term goals (beyond your term of office) that you have for the Executive Board.

Bartell: Goals that I expect to have achieved during my term of office include:

1) Implementing a separate review board for club budget appeals

2) Hold regular “Town Hall” meetings with club officers and students at large

3) Create a simple set of guidelines for club treasurers so that budget requests can be as straightforward as possible

Goals that I expect to set in motion during my term of office include:

1) Start a general cultural trend away from an authoritative, top-down management approach and shift towards a democratic, bottom-up style

2) Implement technological tools to allow all students to see and understand the workings of the Eboard

3) Create controls on the EBoard’s power and have students’ desires be the driving force of the student Union

Sudano: For the short term, I’d like to start by increasing transparency between the Executive Board and the student body. I wish to do so by completely revising the social media structure within the Executive Board and increasing opportunities for student input into the workings and decisions of the Executive Board. Additionally, I would like to institute regular publicity updates from the Executive Board, its committees, and its activities, which would be released to the student body by multiple means to ensure it reaches as many students as possible.

Additionally, I wish to bring a stronger student voice to the Executive Board. I wish to do this by creating an Activity Fee Task Force, which will allow for students to re-analyze the purposes of the Activity Fee and how funds are being distributed. Furthermore, I will ensure regular surveys are released to gauge student opinions so that Executive Board representatives can more accurately represent the students.

Lastly, I set a precedent by appointing an Executive Board that I will hold fully accountable to the students of Rensselaer. I want the Executive Board to help the Rensselaer Union move in a direction that will foster student creativity and initiative. I will expect all of my Executive Board representatives to attend general body meetings of clubs they represent so that they can better represent and advocate for their clubs when it comes time for budgeting.

In terms of long term goals. I wish to create and long lasting, healthy Rensselaer Union facilities. I believe that that is best done by allowing for students to decide the how the facilities should be utilized. By maximizing student input we can allow for students to decide the direction of the Union facilities.

I will also work towards creating an atmosphere promoting student creativity and initiative. The Rensselaer Union has gotten away from its core principles of promoting student ideas. I speak at length about this in my platform, but. I believe that by directly supporting student ideas and allowing them to flourish we can shift the atmosphere back towards one that promotes student ideas and creativity.

To conclude, I want to create a system in which the Union can start looking into alternate methods of income. I wish to create a means for passionate alumni to directly support the Rensselaer Union and the students of RPI. In doing so, I would like for the Rensselaer Union to become less dependent on student tuition to prevent against the current trend of increasing the activity fee.

What do you feel are the roles of the President of the Union and the Executive Board?

Bartell: The role of the Union is to distribute funds collected from students (mostly in the form of the Student Activity Fee) to programs, activities, and clubs that benefit the students, as well as the physical facilities and administrative services that go along with it. The President of the Union is to be the arbiter of students’ will, taking into account the views presented to him by the EBoard and the student body at large.

Sudano: The President of the Union and the Rensselaer Union Executive Board work towards ensuring that all students at Rensselaer get the most out of the Rensselaer Union facilities, services, and the Union Activity Fee. The President of the Union and the Executive Board ensure the proper use of the student activity fee so that it is being used to help and benefit as many students as it possibly can. The President of the Union is tasked with making sure that all clubs and students are given up to date information on what is going on within the Rensselaer Union. The PU also has the responsibility of ensuring that all Executive Board representatives accurately represent their clubs and the student of RPI.

While the PU may not offer any opinion into pending Executive Board decisions, but, must guide the members of the Executive Board so that they can make informed decisions. The Executive Board is responsible for analyzing all perspective proposals that come before them to decide how Rensselaer Union resources should be used. Also, all Executive Board representatives are responsible for meeting with their clubs do that they can accurately represent them during budgeting. Lastly, all Executive Board representatives are responsible for creating an environment with the Rensselaer Union conducive towards student creativity and initiative.

What do you think are the incumbent President of the Union’s strengths and weaknesses? What would you do to improve upon them if you are elected?

Bartell: Erin Amarello’s biggest strength is her spirit: she honestly wants to make sure that RPI is as great of a place for students as it can be. While we have a lot of places where we differ philosophically, the biggest “problem” I see with her is her social media presence. She has not done a great job of engaging with the student body online. Kyle Keraga is a role-model of sorts here, as he has generally maintained a positive attitude even in the face of severe criticisms online.

Sudano: The current President of the Union, Erin Amerello, did a fantastic job laying the ground work for a successful future for the Rensselaer Union. It was a pleasure serving on the board with her this past year and learning from her. Erin developed new communication chains, such as office hours, that weren’t available previously to make herself more open the students of Rensselaer. She also was very honest and open with Executive Board and the students so that people would have the information accessible them if they needed it. However, through all of Erin’s strengths no one is without their weaknesses. One of the weaknesses that I encountered this year was that she didn’t make sure that the Executive Board representatives had met with their clubs and that they were representing them to the best of their abilities. With that being said, I will be requiring all Executive Board representatives to attend at least one general body meeting for their clubs they represent. This will be in addition to the conversation they should be having regularly to stay up-to-date on what is happening within the club. Lastly, although Erin did an amazing job opening up communication chains between herself and the student body, I believe that there is room for improvement. If elected I will make sure that all students are given all of the information regarding the Rensselaer Union. With this I will hope that all student will have all the information they need before they need to use it.

How would you evaluate the current Union budget situation? What do you foresee as future budget concerns?

Bartell: As one might imagine, the Union budget situation is too complex to describe in a short paragraph here. The general trend is that revenue sources are decreasing – for a variety of reasons, including slower bookstore sales and fewer graduate students to pay activity fees – as the need for that money grows higher (every Freshman class is larger than the one before it). The budget concern that I foresee dealing with is “how do we do more with less”. There’s never enough money to go around, and plenty of great programs to use the money we do have. While there will never be a way to fund everything, I would like to find creative ways to increase revenue so that we can fund as much as is reasonably possible.

Sudano: The Rensselaer Union budget isn’t in one of the healthiest places it has been. Due to a decrease in the incoming class we had to budget for less amount of money while still trying to allow the same services. However, many of the reserve funds for the Union are in a healthy place and shouldn’t require any more transfers to it. If the upcoming year I want to begin to look in to alternate methods of income. My plans are to create an alumni donation website to try and encourage alumni to donate back to the students of RPI. In doing so I would hope to increase the amount of services that I can offer while not having to rely on student activity fee as the major income source for the Union.

What do you see as problems with the Union (in terms of clubs, building operations, etc.), and what ideas do you have for fixing them?

Bartell: The Union spends a lot of its time focusing on policy instead of on progress. I imagine a Union that stands out of the way of students, allowing them to create to their full potential. In more practical terms, I hope to allow clubs greater autonomy over their funds and greater control over their future. I want to reduce administrative costs as much as is humanly possible, and to spend as little money as possible on things that students do not appreciate or use and to redirect those funds towards projects that they do.

A club-funding specific issue is the lack of any real, consistent way to track multi-year capital purchases. With a yearly turn-over of the EBoard and club administration, it’s hard even just to remember that a club wanted to have multi-year projects, let alone actually keeping track of the money involved. Even if a club does try to fund a project using the existing reserve system, it might very well get docked in future years for “not spending” all of its allocated money, when that was the point to begin with. I want to create a solution that allows the Union to fund larger projects overtime, and to incent clubs to do so instead of penalizing them for it.

Sudano: Currently, I believe that one of the major problems facing the Rensselaer Union is communication. I will accomplish this by increasing the amount of information that is distributed to all of the students at RPI. I hope that by doing so students will be given the information before they have need of it.

Secondly, many students aren’t pleased with the distribution of the student activity fee. In order to combat that issue I will be creating a task force to reanalyze the activity fee for both the undergraduates and the graduate students at RPI. This task force will help advise on how the activity should be used and distributed.

Lastly, I believe that the lack of a student voice on the Executive Board is a raising issue. Being an appointed body there is a struggle trying to represent your constituents. Therefore, in order to combat this issue I will begin to open up communication channels on social media where pending decisions can be discussed to try and get the pulse of the student body.

How do you intend to encourage students to fully utilize the resources of the Union?

Bartell: Build it and they will come. The best way to get students to utilize the Union’s services is to focus on providing the best services possible. Word of mouth is plenty sufficient for promotion, and modern technology only accelerates the process. Less effort should be spend on promoting the Union’s works, and more on improving them. Students already use internet resources (Reddit comes to mind) to stay involved with the school, and they’re plenty eager to talk about good services on there.

Sudano: I believe communication is key for students to be able to fully utilize the resources of the Rensselaer Union. Many students at Rensselaer don’t employ all of the resources that are offered to them because they don’t know they exist. I plan on changing this by publicizing all of the services regularly through social media. I also plan on having all of the individual committees go to the activity fair so that students can learn about the specific projects and opportunities that exist within the Executive Board. As you can read in my platform, I want to create a spring activity fair. This activity fair is going to have a different focal point to promote student ideas and initiatives. This activity fair will allow for students to garner support from the Rensselaer Union, academic departments, and potentially the Institute at large. I believe that this event will help student’s realize all of the support that the Rensselaer Union has to offer. We also have many technically focused clubs and project oriented clubs. This event can help these clubs garner support from different organizations on campus to create mutually beneficial relationships. I also want to have annual updates for member of the RPI community. This will serve to keep all students up to date with what is happening within the Rensselaer Union. This will allow for students to better understand both the resources they can utilize and the opportunities that exist for students within the Union.

Editor’s note: All candidates’ submissions were reviewed and edited minimally and only for Poly style. No additions, deletions, or revisions were made for typographical or grammatical errors.