The Senate meeting opened with a presentation of proposed changes to the Institute core curriculum by Associate Professor of Biology and Faculty Senate Core Curriculum Implementation Committee Chairperson Lee Lignon and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Linda Schadler. The committee has been working on a proposal to make changes since “no one can remember the last time core curriculum was updated,” according to Ligon. Ligon said that the proposals are guided by the intersection of three main areas: the Science and the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences core, major requirements, and co and extracurricular activities. In fact, one of the guiding principles behind these changes would be to more deliberately intersect the varying segments of the student experience here at Rensselaer. Any changes would not be implemented until the fall of 2018 at the earliest (and then only for incoming students), so the Senate was asked to provide feedback on behalf of future students.
The proposed HASS changes would require all first year students to take both an exposure/inquiry course and also a communication intensive course during their first year here. The depth requirement would also change to become three courses, rather than the current two, but the distinction between Humanities and Social Science courses would be eliminated. Changes to the School of Science would be minimal, and would mainly center around the Math Department offering introduction courses in subjects other than calculus for majors where calculus is less applicable.
Other changes to the student experience include a freshman summer reading requirement, an educational experience that occurs away from campus, and also proof of a leadership experience. The “away experience” would be fulfilled by participation in the Summer Arch program, but those students who are exempt from the program would need to find another way to fulfill the requirement. Schadler elaborated on the leadership requirement by saying it would be interpreted in the broadest way possible, which means both academic and club experiences could count. Finally, there would be a requirement for all students once a semester to an academic activity outside of courses, such as attending a seminar, talk, or broadly-defined cultural event.
Ligon promised the Senate she would send them the actual draft report of the core curriculum implementation report and encouraged Senators to give their feedback through either the Grand Marshal Paul Ilori ’17 or Academic Affairs Committee chairman Varun Rao ’18.
Next, the Senate committee chairmen gave their weekly reports. Chairman of the Rules and Elections Committee Hannah Rabinowtiz ’18, shared that the freshmen elections had been successful and that her committee is working on revising the elections handbook for the Grand Marshal week elections.
Rao shared that the Academic Affairs committee is working on convincing other departments to implement a flowchart for major concentrations in their major similar to what the Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering Department offers.
Facilities and Services committee chairman Austin Miller ’17 informed the Senate that he is working on having Public Safety officers available in Commons one night for dinner for people to get to know what they offer for campus. Justin Etzine ’18 of the Student Life Committee shared that he will be meeting with Vice President for Administration Claude Rounds, Director of Public Safety Jerry Matthews, and Director of Physical Plant Ernie Katzwinkel to discuss the proposal for changes to student access to residence halls across campus. The committee’s Preferred Names project is still awaiting release from the Registrar’s office before publicizing.
The Senate then transitioned to discussing their bylaws. Right now, in order for the Senate to change its bylaws, there needs to be one vote to remove the existing bylaw and another vote to insert another bylaw to replace the one that was removed. Additionally, the Senate follows Robert’s Rules of Order, so any rules that copy the Rules in the Bylaws can be removed if redundant. Etzine brought the example that the Grand Marshal should be able to change the agenda of the meeting in order to accommodate quests without fear of being called out of order by the Senate. Ultimately, the Senate voted to remove the provision in the bylaws about two votes being needed to make changes, and tabled other discussion until after more research is done into the exact changes that need to be made.
After much debate, the Senate voted 12-4-3 in favor of the established of a new Election Policy Review committee in order to review the operations and structure of R&E. Ilori explained that this is not a bad mark on R&E for the past freshman elections, but that GM Week elections for the past three years have been mired in controversy and have been basically decided by a decision of the Judicial Board. Graduate senator Anthony Bishop elaborated on some previous fiascos in GM Week history, saying that this year is his seventh year at RPI and that he has served on both J-Board and R&E during his tenure as a student here. Rabinowitz was against the creation of this committee because she felt that R&E could do an effective review of itself and make changes internally. Several other senators discussed how R&E has in the past has been seen as having a specter of conflict of interest in some of their decisions and how some people think they are corrupt. The new committee is meant to be an independent voice in order to recommend changes, or no changes if they feel like none are warranted.
The last order of business of the meeting was to vote on the chairman of the newly created review committee. Ilori motioned to appoint Bishop as chairman, giving credit to his extensive experience on both R&E and J-Board. Many senators, however shared concerns that appointing an insider as the chairman of the committee would negate the purpose which is to have an independent review of R&E’s operation structure. Also, general consensus was reached that this position should be filled through an open call to the Union community. In the end, the motion to appoint Bishop was indefinitely postponed by the Senate by a vote of 10-7-3.