The Senate confirmed the appointment of graduate senator Jen Church, current Student Government Communications Committee chairman, to the position of Senate-Executive Board Liaison and chairman of the Union Annual Report committee by a vote of 18-0-4. Church told the Senate that she would be able to taken on the added responsibilities of the new position because she already all of the Senate and Executive Board. Grand Marshal Marcus Flowers ’16 mentioned how she is currently a productive member of the Senate’s cabinet and an effective communicator. She also told the Senate she plans to step down as the Student Government Communications chairman at the end of the semester, but not before a replacement is appointment. Church encouraged freshmen and newer members of Senate to apply for the SGC position as she believed it would give them good leadership experience and crucial administrative contacts to leverage later on in their Senate careers.
Current Judicial Board chairman, Anthony Barbieri ’15 introduced his new J-Board appointees to the Senate for approval. The J-Board chairman appointee was graduate student Nathan James. Flowers jokingly asked him how well he knows the Rensselaer Union Constitution, on a scale of 0 to 10. James responded with 10, citing the fact that he was chairman of last year’s Constitution Committee and that he has served on J-Board as a regular member for the past two years. The new regular members will be Harrison Leinweber ’18, Sumit Munshi ’17, and Il Shin ’17. During the appointment of Shin, Senator Justin Etzine ‘18 questioned Shin on his sitting on cases citing the importance of experience for full J-Board members. The new alternate members will be Joshua Berman ’19, Kentaro Hansen ’19, and William Pfeiffer ’19.
New details about the Summer Arch program, given by Flowers, were discussed during the meeting. He stressed that these details are still very much in the preliminary planning process and are subject to change at any time. Parliamentarian Joshua Rosenfield ’17 brought up concerns about how students will view the Arch program in light of the fact that in-season athletes and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps students will be exempt from the program, as well as students in the School of Architecture. Flowers responded by saying the Faculty Senate in particular told him how they seek to change student’s perception of the Summer Arch from that of a burden to a new opportunity. Unpaid internships could be an option in addition to a regular paid internships and co-ops, but Flowers said there would have to be a new bureaucratic infrastructure set up to support that, because individual departments would have to look into each unpaid opportunity and approve of it as being an educationally sound experience. He said that many companies have issues from a legal standpoint with having students working with no compensation, so they would need an assurance that RPI would count the experience as being educational though not credit bearing.
In regard to the issue of classes over the summer, he told the Senate that RPI wants to keep faculty with the current model of having nine month contracts, traditionally not working during the summer, which would mean the hiring of temporary teaching faculty over the summer or having some faculty take the fall or winter semesters off instead. Flowers also discusses how plans are in the works for there to be an outside of class Summer Experience Program as well. He compared it to an extended Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond type of experience and would include traveling and other trips to take place over times classes weren’t in sessions. Furthermore, he stressed that such an experience would be mandatory but that specific details are sparse right now.
Senator Michael Han ’16 asked about how the Summer Arch program would affect student government elections and membership. Flowers responded by saying that specifics cannot be determined until the first Summer Arch pilot, which will occur during the summer of 2017. Rosenfield added that any elections timeline changes would have to be brought forward as a Union constitution amendment and expressed concerns about it failing because of student opposition to the Arch program. Director of the Union Joe Cassidy told the Senate that the specifics of the academic calendar are still unknown and Flowers said that the academic calendar is usually approved in January. In fact, to that end, he said that a lot of major administrative decision-making on the Arch program will occur during Winter Break and that’s why he’s rescheduled a student Summer Arch forum until February 2016 in order to have more details about the program so that students will be more informed about what specifically to ask.
Flowers told the Senate that he is still looking for interested students to form a Summer Arch focus group. He encourages all interested to contact him at email@example.com. The entire Senate also encourages all students to fill out their annual survey, which can be found at http://poly.news/s/senate15/ as soon as possible.
The Academic Affairs Committee, Student Life Committee, and Web Technologies Group presented briefly to the Senate. Graduate Spencer Scott, chairman of the AAC, presented on his efforts to increase connections between RPI students and Capitol Region media companies. He said that he is working with the Strategic Communications Office in order to coordinate efforts in that regard. Paul Ilori ’17 presented on the Excused Absense policy and how the SLC was a large part of getting it changed. He said before the change professors had the individual power to veto excuses given by the Dean of Students Office and the Student Health Center, but after the change professors are required to give reasonable time to allow work to be made up. Ilori specifically said any “no makeup” policies are superseded by the current student excused absence policy.
Finally, Cameron Riley ’19 from the Web Technologies Group presented his work on the WTG project to look into changes to the student printing system. He said that many comparable colleges use a system where students print to a central queue and that they release their individual jobs once they get to the printer in question. Riley said that a priority of this project would be to eliminate cover sheets, which many students see as a waste of resources. A lesser priority, according to Riley, would be the fact that many schools have a higher free printing allotment than RPI and that many students would like to see the current limit raised.