This past semester was an exciting one for the Student Senate’s Student Life Committee! The committee, which is tasked with creating projects, proposals, and legislation relating to “student rights, residence life, quality of life and well-being,” has made substantive progress in a number of different projects, all with the common objective of improving the RPI experience for all students. For the fall semester, four subcommittees were established to tackle these projects: the Study Spaces Subcommittee, the Counseling Center Subcommittee, the Student Rights and Policy Subcommittee, and the Pharmacy and Residence Halls Subcommittee.
The Class of 2020 introduced the largest incoming class size to the campus in the history of RPI, and that increase in number of students has led to an increase in demand for study spaces on campus. Led by Nancy Bush ’19, the Study Spaces Subcommittee was tasked with helping alleviate this issue, either by promoting less-frequented spaces on campus that are ideal for studying or by identifying spaces on campus that could be converted into studying space with as little physical modifications needed as possible. The subcommittee worked with the Rensselaer Union’s Business Operations Committee to ensure that Mother’s Wine Emporium on the first floor of the Union is unlocked, open, and available for studying when events are not taking place on weeknights. Additionally, at the request of the Division of Student Life, the subcommittee identified the Darrin Communication Center’s Great Hall, the lobby of the Jonsson Engineering Center, and the lobby of the Russell Sage Laboratory as ideal locations for future study spaces. Finally, the subcommittee created a proposal for the repurposing of vacant offices on the entry floor of the ’87 Gym as study spaces and reservable meeting rooms.
Last spring, a number of students voiced suggestions, concerns, and ideas for the further improvement of the Counseling Center, which is the on-campus provider of mental health services for RPI students. The Counseling Center Subcommittee, led by Nathan Dorer ’18, set out to consolidate the feedback, suggestions, and ideas and to collaborate with the Counseling Center and the Student Health Center to help bring those ideas to fruition. Through a survey with over 175 student responses, we have obtained sufficient data to create recommendations to provide to the Counseling Center. Some of these recommendations include a counselor that is specially trained in concerns that arise for LGBTQ students, an appointment reminder system, and, optimally, a system that enables students to coordinate their appointments online. Finally, the group worked with the Mental Health Association in New York State to obtain a comprehensive list of referrals for other resources in the Capital District.
As the Student Life Committee works with student rights, which permeates every aspect of student life, the committee reintroduced the Student Rights and Policy Subcommittee, tasked with exploring any concerns that the student body may have with respect to policies and student rights. Led by Marvin Cosare ’18, the subcommittee encountered some concerns with respect to Greek life, specifically pertaining to Greek students who wanted to reside in their fraternity houses during the Summer Arch semester and the discontinuation of the Student Peer Alcohol Monitoring program. The committee worked with the Division of Student Life and the Alumni Inter-Greek Council to gauge feedback on the Summer Arch concern and began investigating possibilities to succeed SPAM as a student-led monitoring program.
Finally, continuing with two standing projects, the Pharmacy and Residence Hall Subcommittee, led by Mary Clare Crochiere ’19, focused on pursuing incremental progress on the goal of bringing a pharmacy to campus and coordinating the structure and variety of questions to collect the annual feedback on the current state of residential facilities. The questions will be included in the Senate’s survey later this semester, and meetings on the pharmacy project are continuing to hopefully pursue the project in future years.
This semester saw substantive progress on a number of other projects! The Preferred Names Project, led by now-recent alumnus Emily Downs, which is working to provide students with a way to designate a preferred name for non-legal purposes, including class lists. The Capital District Shuttles Program has progressed impressively, and a proposal to convert the program from a pilot into a full-fledged program, written by Project Lead Jenna Freedberg ’18, is scheduled to come before the Senate on Monday, January 30.
With the Food Diversity Project, also lead by Bush, SLC is working to ensure that the cuisine options on campus are diverse enough to match the different food tastes that students may have. In the coming semester, the project will determine how different cuisines could be brought to campus on tentative or provisional bases. Finally, as a continuation of the Access and Security Proposal passed in Spring 2016, Project Lead Harrison Leinweber ’18 has been coordinating meetings with the Administration Division and Department of Public Safety to discuss the possibility of restoring access to multiple points of entry for residence halls.
If you are interested in taking part and working to improve student life, for the Spring 2017 semester, SLC meets on Wednesdays at 6 pm in the Student Government Suite on the third floor of the Union. For any questions or ideas, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!