The Student Senate’s main discussion of their Monday night meeting was on the changes to the core curriculum. The Academic Affairs Committee aimed to receive feedback which could be brought to Professor Lee Ligon, who is leading the committee proposing the changes.
The major changes that were discussed were the removal of the distinction between humanities and social sciences for HASS requirements, a larger HASS depth requirement, a data-intensive course requirement, required summer reading for incoming freshmen, and a leadership or civic engagement requirement.
Justin Etzine ’18 expressed discontent with the lack of exposure the document has, citing its absence anywhere online. He suggested publicly publishing the document so that students could provide more feedback.
Etzine also worried that students who bring in a large amount of HASS-related AP credits might be required to take more HASS courses than needed to fulfill depth requirements. He, as well as many other senators, was not pleased with the idea of required summer reading, as the freshman class does not take on a singular class to unite them around the book.
Graduate student Anthony Bishop called the leadership requirement a “pie in the sky,” with the opinion that students will only be going to events to check off a box. CJ Markum ’17 agreed, saying that the quality of events could be diminished with disinterested students in forced attendance.
“Is this for the students, or is this what they want to say you’re getting out of Rensselaer education?” questioned Markum. “Also, it is [sic] called extra-curricular activities.”
Bishop also brought up what the changes in HASS requirements would mean for graduate teaching assistants. He said that during their town hall, graduate students were concerned that more courses would need to be filled with TAs, putting increased pressure on them. AAC chairperson Varun Rao ’18 said that implementation has not yet been discussed, but that he would bring up the concern.
Nancy Bush ’19 told the Senate that many people she talked to were in favor of the changes when they understood them. She also said that too many people were thinking about the leadership requirement with a narrow mind.
Marvin Cosare ’18 made the case for Greek life fulfilling the leadership requirement. Grand Marshal Paul Ilori ’17 confirmed that Greek leadership positions would count towards the requirement.
The Senate’s suggestions will be brought back to the core curriculum committee for discussion.
Markum, chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee, presented on the report the committee was tasked to create. Last semester, the committee was formed to address the Preserve the Student Union petition. Since then, the AHC has been working to compile a comprehensive report which the Senate will soon vote on.
The report details the history of the Rensselaer Union, from its early stages in the ’86 Gym, to its present day location. It recounts the events that transpired this spring, starting with the removal of athletics budgeting from the Union, and ending with President Shirley Ann Jackson’s email to the community removing the Executive Director of Student Activities form the Student Life portfolio.
Markum and the committee members worked to provide data-backed recommendations of how to mitigate future issues with the Union. The committee recommends having current and recent graduates serve as junior members on the Board of Trustees, to serve as a voice for the current Rensselaer student community. There are also recommendations about communication and what steps can be taken to improve communication between students and the administration.
The full report can be viewed at https://poly.rpi.edu/s/report.
The purpose of the evening’s discussion was wording in the report, as it would not be voted on during the meeting. Graduate student Kinshuk Panda called the use of terms “bait and switch” and “culture of fear” in the report “harsh and abrasive.” Graduate student Anthony Ashley agreed, worried that it would jeopardize their relationship with the administration and hinder progress on issues such as the graduate stipend.
There was some discussion regarding what the approval of the report would mean for the Senate-administration relationship, but Ilori said those opinions should be held for when the approval of the document is discussed. The Senate will be voting on the document in the coming weeks.
The last item of business was the Senate’s annual Light Walk. The Light Walk is an opportunity for senators to walk common commutes for students, looking for burned out street lights, broken sidewalks, or other hindrances that can be brought to the attention of the Department of Public Safety to be fixed.