Victoria Tong ’16, chairman of the Rules and Elections Committee, told the Senate that R&E has been planning out how GM Week 2016 is going to work. They have established a preliminary timeline and are working on giving more structure to their timeline of events. She also told the Senate that Paul Ilori ’17 has stepped down from his position as co-chairman and now has no role on R&E.
Graduate Senator Jen Church, chairman of the Student Government Communications Committee, told the Senate that SGCC has been postering for the Senate Fall 2015 Survey (which can be found at http://poly.news/s/senate15). She also reiterated that SGCC needs a new chairman and that all interested people should email Grand Marshal Marcus Flowers ’16 at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible to apply.
Chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee, graduate student Spencer Scott, presented to the Senate about progress on efforts to improve RPI’s ability to help upperclassmen and graduate students apply for graduate fellowships. In his presentation, Scott said that “we’re lacking,” as a whole Institute, in comparison to peer institutions in regard to resources given to students looking to apply for fellowships. He said that RPI has a website with information about fellowships but that it was obviously unfinished and out of date. Scott said most of RPI’s peer institutions have dedicated staff that all students can go to for advice. In comparison, at RPI, it is currently up to individual departments to give students seeking fellowships advice. He specifically cited the Biomedical Engineering Department as an example of the fellowship advising that AAC would like to see Institute-wide.
Senator Austin Miller ’17 presented on the water bottle filling stations project from the Facilities and Services Committee. It is a joint project with Vasudha to install filling stations in buildings around campus. The first station will be installed in the McNeil Room of the Rensselaer Union. The committee originally looked into retrofit options for existing fountains, but they determined that current fountains are too old for a retrofit to be viable. In order to pay for the new fountain, they are selling reusable water bottles for $10 each around campus, and Miller encourages any clubs interested in helping to sell them to contact him.
The Hospitality and Services Advisory Committee report, given by Chairman Joe Venusto ’17, was brief, but Venusto mentioned that a meeting with Hospitality Services to discuss student meal plan recommendations was cancelled and that another meeting will not be able to be rescheduled before the end of the semester. This would be mean that the ability for HSAC to give advice before the Board of Trustees votes on the meal plans would be limited. When asked further about that, Venusto stressed that HSAC has more of an advisory role in the meal plan process and that he was not concerned that the meeting was cancelled.
Ilori, chairman of the Student Life Committee, gave some brief updates on their progress. He is going to meet with Vice President for Administration Claude Rounds and Dean of Students Mark Smith to discuss the current inclement weather policy and how professors can choose to hold classes after the Institute cancels classes for the day. SLC has also taken on the Orchestra issues discussed on November 10th and is looking into getting practices in the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center more often.
Web Technologies Group Chairman Justin Etzine ’18 presented on the details of two of their projects. The first project is a rewrite of the current RPI Shuttle Tracking application by Gabe Perez ’15, Francesca Huber ’16, and Sidney Kochman ’19. The main issue with the current version of the app is that shuttle locations lag behind where they actually are. New features in this rewrite include the ability of Parking and Transportation to change route information in real time and improves real-time tracking of shuttles. SMS updates are a feature that is being looked into as well.
Etzine also presented progress on a new elections website to replace the site found at http://elections.union.rpi.edu. This site is being developed by Erica Braunschweig ’17, Ylonka Machado ’17, Robert Russo ’17, and Jason Lee ’19. Etzine explained that the current website was developed in 2008 and is beginning to show its age. He proceeded to give a live demonstration of the new site to the Senate. The new website will be faster and have a section that candidates themselves can update, complete with video embeds and a section where students (after signing in with their RCS ID) can ask candidates questions and view answers publicly. Questions would be moderated by R&E members before they publicly appear on the site. In fact, both WebTech and R&E members would have admin access to the site, in order to make updates and keep it running throughout GM Week elections in the spring and freshmen elections in the fall. Etzine also mentioned how he wants the site to integrate with Flagship Docs so the sanctions a candidate receives would sync with their public profile.
Professor Atsushi Akera, Secretary of the Faculty Senate, spoke briefly in order to reiterate that he is looking for more of a collaborative relationship between the two groups. He also commended the work of Spencer Scott and the other members of AAC.
Next week, instead of meeting normally, the Senate is going to holding a town hall style meeting that all students are invited to attend. This meeting will be held at 7 pm on December 8 in the McNeil Room, pending Executive Board approval. The Senate committees will explain what they do and then discussion will be opened and questions will be taken, especially about Summer Arch. Flowers stressed that this is the most important thing Senators can do to connect with students and he urged all students to attend next week’s meeting.