Before the meeting officially started, Andrew Sudano ’17 read a prepared statement to the Senate resigning from all of his current student government positions, effective immediately. In his statement, he said, “I take full responsibility for what I did,” and after speaking he left the room without taking further questions. Notably, the Senate had the greatest non-Senator attendance of meetings all year with approximately 30 other people in the non-voting audience. Included amongst the audience were President of the Union Nick Dvorak ’16 and Chairman of the Rensselaer Union Judicial Board Anthony Barbieri ’15.
In spite of Sudano’s sudden resignation, the Senate still held a lengthy discussion on the merits of a petition sponsored by Trevor Molineaux ’16 which called for not only the removal of Sudano from all of his current positions, but also called for him to be barred from future participation in student government for the rest of his career at Rensselaer. James Whelan ’17 asked why Molineaux felt that Sudano should not be given a second chance to prove his worth to the student body. Molineaux responded by saying that Sudano, after being initially told to stop campaigning both by himself and through his party, violated that sanction and therefore his violation of the rules was not one isolated incident.
Jenna Freedberg ’18 pointed out many of Sudano’s accomplishments already this year, including his work as chairman of the Union Annual Report committee. She said that his resignation has done irredeemable harm to the committee right during the bulk of its work before club budgeting seasons. Justin Etzine ’18 further elaborated later by saying the “UAR committee is quite important even if we don’t see it on a daily basis.” Molineaux responded to Freedberg’s objections by saying that over 250 students have no trust in Sudano because of his actions, as Freedberg put it, “at the end of his sophomore year.” Etzine agreed with Molineaux by saying that he does not believe that Sudano would be the right man to be chairman of UAR committee because UAR is a financial report and only has meaning if students trust the man who created it.
Thomas Alappat ’17 spoke in support of Sudano and also admitted he is a close friend of him. He told the Senate that Sudano is a man who holds himself to high standards and strives for excellence in all his endeavors. According to Alappat, Sudano was “on the verge of emotional breakdown for a very long time” due to abuse he has received from a minority of students who believe he is a bad person. According to Dvorak, Sudano does not care about the results of any discussion held during the meeting and how he desires for a clean break from student government. Furthermore, he made it clear that his appointment to the Executive Board in the spring was the result of the Marcus Flowers ’16 appointing him as Senate-Executive Board Liaison.
Greg Bartell ’17 spoke of how he felt he was personally victimized by Sudano ripping down his posters. His biggest regret in the whole process was the fact that he stayed relatively silent on the issue during the last part of the election, and in hindsight claims he should have spoken up more. He implored the Senate to follow through and ban Sudano from future student government participation, and said that tonight was an opportunity to “right a wrong” perpetrated by his appointment to his positions. Ultimately, the Senate passed no motion in regard to Sudano and discussion moved on to other topics.
The Senate also considered a motion brought forward by the Graduate Council to have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 for all non-freshmen Senators. Under the text of the motion, Senators failing to meet the requirement at the end of the semester would be automatically removed from the Senate. Graduate Senator Tim Krentz presented, saying the motion is meant to remind Senators that school is supposed to be their first priority. He went so far as to say that “getting a 3.0 isn’t that hard” and that many doors close to students who do not have that GPA.
Etzine read an email he received from a fellow sophomore detailing concerns about the motion. Many other Senators also said this was the first time they received emails from their constituents asking them to deny the passage of this motion. The sender of the email expressed concerns that setting a limit of 3.0 would exclude half of the student body and that the Senate is supposed to represent all students. All members of the Union are adults and therefore make their own decisions about how they spend their time. Dvorak said that the GPA requirement, which he confirmed with Dean of Students Mark Smith before the meeting, is only a 2.5 and not a 3.0 as was originally rumored. He also said that if the E-Board decides the Senate is unfairly excluding members of the Union from participating, that there would be grounds for their budget being taken away because Union-funded organizations have to be open to all members of the Union. Michael Han ’16 asked why the Senate was considering holding itself to a standard higher than that of the GM and PU.
Paul Ilori ’17 spoke to how he would not be allowed to be on Senate if the motion passed because he only has a 2.99 GPA due to the commitments of being Rules & Elections chair during GM Week 2015 and only being able to pull a 2.6 GPA that semester. He also said that all graduates have to maintain a 3.0 GPA in order to be at RPI so this motion would not affect them.
Ultimately, Austin Miller ’17 proposed an amendment to the motion to only require a GPA of 2.5 to be on Senate. Once the parliamentary process of amendment and calling the question passed, the amended motion failed 11-12-0. Alappat, Nancy Bush ’19, Caleb Caraway ’19, Keegan Caraway ’18, Joshua D’Amato ’18, Etzine, Han, Samantha Notley ’18, Wilbur Velarde ’19, Joe Venusto ’17, and James Whelan ’17 all voted against the motion. Caola, Jen Church, Ilori, Jessica Krajewski ’16, Krentz, Miller, Cameron Riley ’19, Spencer Scott, Steven Sperezza ’18, Benjamin Walcott, and Amanda Youmans all voted in favor of the motion.
Also, Dr. Amir Hirsa, from the Mechanical, Nuclear, and Aerospace Engineering department presented to the Senate about the work of the Faculty Senate. He said that the Faculty Senate is greatly looking to increase interaction with the Student Senate because they want to see shared governance taken seriously again by administration. He specifically said that they are looking to understand exactly what the role of students should be in regard to the Faculty Senate, and he welcomed any members of the Student Senate to talk to him.