Students discuss potential Veteran’s Lounge

Space for proposed lounge to be distributed from existing club space

RPI MANDARIN CLUB SEEKS approval for a starter budget.

The February 2 assembly of the Rensselaer Union Executive Board considered three primary topics: the Forge sought Union Affiliated status, the Conversation Corner/Mandarin Club sought a starter budget of $200, and the Executive Board considered a “pledge to have a space for a Student Veteran’s Lounge within the Rensselaer Student Union.”

The primary order of business was exploring solutions for the creation of a Student Veteran’s Lounge. The creation of a lounge for student veterans is being actively coordinated between the Executive Board and the Student Veterans Association. The complication of this proposal is finding space for the proposed Student Veteran’s Lounge. The most likely solution is for UPAC’s current office (Union 3802) to become the Student Veteran’s Lounge, though other plans have been proposed.

Variations of the plan involve moving UPAC’s office to a location in the Publications Suite. Transit, the Union-affiliated club that creates the annual Transit Yearbook, voted to dissolve itself in Fall 2016. This left Union 3320 vacant. The Rensselaer Polytechnic’s composing room, Transit’s office, and Statler & Waldorf’s office in Union 3314 are the rooms that may be redistributed to make space for the Student Veteran’s Lounge.

Each organization with an interest in the outcome of the room rearrangement presented details of their club operations relevant to which room they need. The Poly, represented by Jack Wellhofer ’18 and Sidney Kochman ’19, presented their case first. Both stated that a composing office is necessary for The Poly’s operations as a quiet working space during composing nights, away from the chaos of the main office. This extra space becomes more necessary in the future as the number of contributors increases, as it has steadily since Fall 2013. There is also need for a private location for confidential meetings and a storage space for archived issues.

When asked, The Poly stated that Transit’s office is too small to fulfill their needs. The Poly also rejected the idea of reserving a room in the Union on composing night, due to the loss in efficiency from the distant loci of operations. The Poly also expressed concerns that any temporary solution would become permanent as E-Boards change over the years.

Next, S&W, represented by Noah Tebben ’17, appeared before The Board. Their concerns focused on the necessity of retaining their current work space. Noah stated that their office has organization of objects on the wall and elsewhere that greatly contributes to the creativity of the publication. Answering a question about moving their office, S&W worried that their club possibly risked extinguishing the club altogether. S&W could possibly move to the Transit office for the remainder of the semester, if the Transit office was guaranteed to be expanded in the summer of 2017, but with great challenge to the club’s future. They also claimed that they use their office 15-20 hours every week, and need a permanent space for their desktop computer, eliminating the possibility of moving all operations to a Union public meeting space.

Finally, UPAC, represented by Anna Stephenson ’18, Caitlin McCleery ’17, Andrew Kiselik ’19 and Aidan Pelisson ’18, presented its case. By their experience, their current office is about the minimum size they could function in; this is due to every UPAC division needing a separate desk space to work, and the need to fit 10-12 people into a room on short notice (preventing using a Union public meeting space). In response to inquiry into the possibility of moving into a smaller space until summer, UPAC expressed concern that their functionality would be damaged, though operations might be able to continue. Their case for an equal or larger room also included the current trend of growth continuing into the near future, leading to greater strain on their already cramped quarters.

Every organization was asked about their ideal rearrangement of offices to fulfill their needs. UPAC requested The Poly’s current composing suite, moving The Poly into the Transit office. The Poly and S&W said they would like their current spaces intact.

Shannon Gillespie McComb ’17 then presented their case for adding a Student Veteran’s Lounge to the Union, stating that it is extremely difficult for veterans to find other veterans; even through her efforts, she could not determine how many students at RPI are veterans, with her estimate around 50. There is a need for them to find others because most veteran students are in their late 20s to early 30s, and therefore have very little in common with the 18-22 year old remainder of the student population. Finally, there are no current plans to add a Student Veteran’s Lounge anywhere else on campus.

Earlier in the meeting, The Forge sought affiliated status. The Forge presented itself as an organization that connected creators with equipment and other creators. They viewed affiliated status as a way to increase student involvement.

The Forge currently has a makerspace in CII 2037 that contains 3D printers, a 3D scanner, and a laser cutter, for the purpose of prototyping and manufacturing. The Forge also connects students with other machinery on campus, as well as professors and students with relevant knowledge and experience for assistance. They claimed that the makerspace in downtown Troy is inferior to their capabilities because theirs is free, student run, and much more conveniently located. Their total membership is currently 17.

Finally, after The Forge achieved Union affiliated status, the Conversation Corner and Mandarin Club sought a $200 budget. The mission of the club is to connect native speakers with non-speakers, to assist each other in learning the other’s native language. There was concern voiced by E-board members that the Mandarin Club’s intended spending too closely matched other clubs performing similar activities. However, as recommended by McComb, the Conversation Corner was granted $200/year to give them a chance to find ways to creatively use their budget to further their mission.