Student Senate

Sodexo contract, mall shuttles discussed

On December 31, Grand Marshal Paul Ilori ’17 opened the Student Senate meeting with committee reports. Those included a discussion led by Chair of the Hospitality Services Advisory Committee Jenna Freedberg ’18 who reviewed the committee’s current objectives including reviewing the online petition “Do Not Extend Sodexo’s Contract,” which has garnered 387 signatures since its inception two years ago.

Freedberg is currently working with the committee to create a response to the petition as well as offer future recommendations to Hospitality Services and the Rensselaer Board of Trustees. As such, the Committee is also pursuing changes to meal plan proposals and expanding access to foods and services that students desire most. Following Freedberg, Student Life Committee Chairperson Justin Etzine ’18 continued committee reports with a discussion regarding the reinstatement of the student peer alcohol monitoring program in which students would attend parties as additional sober monitors and watch for any potential hazardous situations and policy violations.

The proposed version of the previously instated policy is meant to fill in the void left by the program being removed last year due to liability involved with students being paid to participate in the program. In response to a question regarding TIPS training, Etzine said that “TIPS is very useful, but doesn’t serve the exact same purpose,” calling for both TIPS and the revived peer alcohol monitoring proposal to exist “in tandem.”

Web Technologies Chair Sidney Kochman ’19 continued to give an update on the current state of the RPI shuttle mobile phone application, stating that recent downtimes in the shuttle tracker may be resolved through the recent update of the hardware hosting the application’s server. Community Relations Committee Chairperson Leo Gallo ’19 followed with describing upcoming plans to host a Lupus walk in Downtown Troy in collaboration with Russell Sage College. Gallo hopes that the collaboration will boost community relations between the RPI community and Troy as well as further encourage cooperation between Russell Sage and Rensselaer.

In addition, Gallo mentioned a recent proposal to the committee regarding a potential event in downtown Troy. referred to tentatively as the “Puckman Walk,” which would include a “school spirit-themed Troy night out” inspired by Cornell’s BEAR walk. Gallo is hoping to work with his committee and the Rensselaer community in order to make the project a reality. In addition, Gallo hopes to meet with RPI’s new Dean of Students Travis Apgar in order to discuss the logistics behind the proposal, as he was involved in the initial creation of Cornell’s BEAR walk and has expressed interest in participating in a potential pilot program.

Following committee reports, constituent reports were delivered beginning with Greek Senator Marvin Cosare ’18. Cosare went over coming events and deadlines, stating that bid lists for all campus fraternities are due February 7 at 11:59pm and the Greek block party will be held on April 30th.

Executive Board member Thomas Alappat ’17 also delivered a report, stating that the Union Clubhouse Pub’s ID scanner has been recently updated to prevent the use of fake IDs. In response to a question regarding potential incidents with the former scanner, Alappat stated that “I doubt we’ve had one recently, but this will filter everything 100%.” Alappat also delivered a summary of an update from Rules & Elections Committee Chair David Raab ’19, stating that the Student Senate’s email address has been updated in compliance with a request from DotCIO and has currently been changed to

Following Constituent reports, Jenna Freedberg ’18 provided a presentation regarding the Capital District Shuttles Proposal, which would provide free transportation to Crossgates Mall on the weekends. Freedberg began by stating, “I believe that it’s very important to student development. This allows people to go and hang out with their friends, and is really geared towards freshmen since they are not allowed to have cars on campus.” Freedberg noted that events like Troy Night Out do not occur during winter months, and it would take roughly two hours to reach Crossgates Mall using CDTA buses. Ultimately, Freedberg hoped that the proposal would “help incoming freshman form study groups and friend groups that will help them succeed at RPI.” According to statistics provided during the presentation, 7.5% of students have used the mall shuttle over only 10 recorded runs since Spring 2015.

Following the presentation, the Student Senate entered into a discussion regarding the mall shuttle motion. C.J. Markum ’17 began the discussion by stating “the future of this project, as stated by this report, is not something I would be behind.” Markum continued to raise concerns behind the monetary cost of the program as well as the necessity to use such funds to create new clubs to support the CLASS initiatives of the Institute.

Freedberg responded by claiming that, after last year’s spring protest, students wish for student programs to be student-run and relinquishing funding from the Union in favor of funds from Auxiliary Services would add yet another critical student program to the list of programs currently supported outside the Union’s activity fee.

Following further discussion, the Senate voted to end discussion regarding the proposal. Votes for the motion were tied, requiring Ilori to make the deciding vote, in which the motion failed 9-10-5. The Senate then continued with proceedings to bring a motion to impeach former Class of 2017 Senators Joe Venusto and Austin Miller, who reportedly missed two class council meetings. Miller claimed that both him and Venusto had conflicting responsibilities with their fraternity house, in which their fraternity’s weekly meeting time changed with class council meeting times, leading to a schedule dispute. Miller also claimed that both hold leadership positions requiring them to be present for such events.

Following brief discussion, the Senate voted on motions to continue proceedings to impeach Miller and Venusto, which passed 21-0-1 and 21-0-0, respectively. Both Miller and Venusto gave their formal resignation following the motion.