Candidate Questions

President of the Union candidate profiles

Why do you want to be President of The Union?

Keegan Caraway: I would like to be President of the Union for a few reasons. I want to continue the legacy of a student run union here at RPI, which I feel has been threatened in the past. I want to help improve and rebuild the lines of communication that student government has with the administration. I want to help plan for the coming summer arch and future summer arches and their effect on Union operations. I want to ensure that the search for a new Director of the Union moves forward and that the position is filled with an adequate candidate so that the position doesn’t sit vacate for another year.

Rasika Ekhalikar:  The Union is a place where people of all backgrounds are able to come together to support and connect with one another. The Union is an integral part of student life that provides students with the opportunities to get a full collegiate experience and improve themselves through activities not available anywhere else on campus. I have loved representing students and clubs on the Executive Board this past year. I want to be the President of the Union because I believe I can positively impact the Rensselaer Union community by increasing club-collaborative events, spreading knowledge about the services the Union provides, exposing students to different experiences to increase personal development, and leading Rensselaer Executive Board to better decision-making. I have shown my dedication, passion, innovative ideas, and ability to lead to advance students’ vision for the Union.

Harrison Leinweber: I believe I am the best qualified candidate. I would not be running otherwise. The Union needs protection from administrative overreach. We’ve been seeing a lot recently, and students need someone to stand up for their rights as well as the uniqueness of the Union. I not only recognize the importance of standing up for others, I enjoy going toe-to-toe with the Administration. I believe I can make a real change by sorting out inefficiencies within the Union and defending our position in the Institute. and chair the Committee to Help Inform the Public.

Matthew Rand: I want to be President of the Union because I believe that the work of the Executive Board positively impacts the lives of all students at RPI. After two years on the Board, I want to take the next step to lead the Board in this endeavor. I have a vision for the Union that will ensure that it remains the hub of campus life for years to come. I want to help my fellow students not only have a better student experience, but build a stronger sense of pride for our Union and for our Institute.

What qualifies you to be President of  the Union?

Keegan Caraway: My qualifications for President of the Union would probably start with my experience in student government. I’ve been on the student senate for two years and of those two years I was secretary for the senate for most of that time in addition to my senator duties. In that time, I worked on a range of senate projects and senate sub committees. For the past 3 semesters I have been sitting in Executive Board meetings, attending Executive Board committees, and meeting with union administrators to make sure I fully understand the finances of the union. In the past 2 semesters I worked on the policies committee, the Business Operations committee and the UAR committee which have given me a breadth of knowledge about what the President of the Union needs to know to do his job in an informed manner. One unique experience I bring is having been on both the committee that approves new clubs and been part of a group trying to build a new club; I was one of the founding members of the Destination Imagination club who worked to get the club union recognized and union funded.

Rasika Ekhalikar: This past year, I was an Executive Board Club/ICA Representative, and it has been an extremely rewarding and exciting experience. Through my experience of being on the Executive Board, I have the knowledge of Union operations, budgeting, needs of clubs and the ability to get things done. For the past two years I have been the chair of the Business Operations Committee of the Executive Board. During my time as chair, the committee has replaced the McNeil Room carpet, chairs and tables, opened the basement for club storage, and increased communication among the businesses in the Union and students. In addition, we have begun preparing for the future by identifying areas in the Union that need to be upgraded and making plans for those renovations. Being chair has given me the opportunity to learn about club and student’s needs and make changes to the Union with those requirements in mind. It is a rewarding experience for leadership development as well as problem solving skills. Meanwhile, it has prepared me to be President of the Union by exposing me to students’ needs and what Union can provide for them.

Harrison Leinweber: My leadership ability and experience qualify me. The President of the Union needs soft skills more than hard skills. They need to appoint an excellent quality Executive Board; be able to interface with clubs, administrators, and Union employees; and stand up for the Union’s best interests. They also need to be quick on their feet when negotiating with others, but patient enough to wait out bureaucracy. I have been fighting with unwavering tenacity to reverse the door access decisions of Fall 2014. Additionally, I recently began a campaign to help free RPI Ambulance from Institute Procurement’s unilateral decision to change our vendor for medical supplies. Both these initiatives have required coordination with Union officials, Institute administrators, and compromise. I have been a club officer for two years and work as a Union Systems Administrator; both of these have given me extensive exposure to the budgeting process and Executive Board proposals. The aforementioned soft skills as well as my ability to quickly learn complement my hard experience with budgeting and working with the Executive Board.

Matthew Rand: I joined the Executive Board as a freshman in the fall of 2015 as the Class of 2019 representative, which I still serve as. In addition to this role, I serve as the Chairman of the Policies Committee where I led projects to update the Executive Board’s Bylaws, Budgeting Guidelines, and Club Classification system. I have worked with the Business Operations committee upgrading the McNeil room and implementing a new system for allocating storage space within the Union. For the past two years, I have gone above and beyond my obligations as a Board member by joining multiple committees, by working with Chip and Nick on smaller projects outside the scope of my specified position, and by working with the Administrative Staff to understand the issues they see within the Union and how the Executive Board can alleviate those. I have also served as the Vice President and Treasurer for the Men’s Club Lacrosse Team, so I understand just how the Union operates from both the club side and the Executive Board side.

Name three short-term and three long-term goals that you have for the executive board.

Keegan Caraway: As far as short-term goals for my term as president of the union, I would like to see the position of Director of the Union filled, or at least the next phase of the process started. In conversations with Union administrators I have heard that there are prospects for the position and I believe that these prospects should be looked at to see if they can fill the seat of Director of the Union adequately. I want to create a committee or subcommittee with the sole purpose of helping news clubs through the club formation process; I hope to accomplish better lines of communication for new club officers to talk to the Executive Board so that they can fulfill the requirements to become Union recognized. While I’m in office I’d like to create a stronger public media presence for the Executive Board. Recently the Executive board approached the senate to create their own communications committee, I believe the better option to be for the Executive Board to communicate with the Student Government Communications Committee to accomplish a public media presence.
In the more long-term picture of things I’d like the lines of communication with administration to be reinforced, with the reorganization of the administrative portfolio I would like to see a conversation had about where certain student issue should be heard by the collection of Assistant Vice Presidents. I think one lack luster area of student government that could use long term work would be improving student government’s involvement with the community. I think the best way to address this would be to pus for more initiatives with clubs that have effects outside the university. Lastly I’d love to see an improvement on long term saving for clubs for larger projects and emergency funds. This could be addressed by allowing clubs to create savings funds for projects that require more planning or equipment that wears out but is necessary could be placed on plans for purchase.

Rasika Ekhalikar: 

Short Term Goals
1. Ensure Executive Board members and club officers are knowledgeable about club operations and budgeting procedures by frequently holding financial, travel, marketing and leadership workshops to continue supporting clubs in a smooth and organized manner.
2. Make information about the Union’s operations and services more accessible for students and clubs by updating Union guidebook.
3. Encourage club collaboration in programs and events to allow more horizontal communication in between different clubs as well as larger participation groups in order to enlarge student involvement in the Union in terms of both size and extent.

Long Term Goals:
1. Investigate Union facilities to ensure the Union is providing services that cater to the needs of clubs and students and incorporate new ideas into a future renovation
2. Increase communication among the students, Student Government, and the Administration through regular meetings to discuss student concerns
3. Create a Summer Arch model that would allow year-round programming for clubs, and ensure continuity between semesters for clubs and students.

Harrison Leinweber: My short term goals are to improve club officer training, increase communication across the student body, and improve transparency in club saving.
My long term goals are to ensure the Union remains student run, keep the Union on track for upcoming renovations, and provide a platform for future Executive Boards to build on for Summer Arch.

Matthew Rand:

Short Term goals:
1. Redefine the structure of Joint Committees operating under the Senate and the Executive Board. As of right now, Joint committees exist solely in the Senate Bylaws, their chairs are appointed solely by the GM, and approved solely by the Senate. In order to increase transparency and redefine how the bodies work together, I want to redefine the structure of Joint Committees.
2. Establish bi-weekly committee meetings between the heads of the five branches of Student Government: The PU, the GM, the Presidents of the Undergraduate and Graduate Councils, and the Chairman of the J-Board. By increasing communication talking about how to improve the function of the 5 bodies and their roles and responsibilities to students and to each other, we can establish a more efficient, more transparent student government.
3. Create educational documentation for Club officers and hold more training sessions (once a month) in order to not only educate our club leaders on Union Policies, but also leadership techniques and tools to implement to better guide their clubs (Bystander Intervention, Leadership styles).
Long Term goals:
1. Establish the outline of a long range plan for the Rensselaer Union. Develop guiding principles for the Union to operate under and for future Executive Boards to make their decisions based around. Establish pillars for the Union to focus programming and services around, such as Inclusivity, Work-life balance, Personal Achievement, etc.
2. Increase the public media presence of the Rensselaer Union. This goal will be supported by the Executive Board Marketing and Publications Committee, but also the Communications Specialist position within the RU staff that will be filled in the near future. By increasing our social media presence, we can get messages out to students more effectively, but also out to our Troy community and even into the National spotlight. Our Union is unique, not only for its structure but for the people who make it up. That is something I want the world to realize.
3. Focus on establishing more space for students, both within the Union and in the facilities the Union operates in. Many of the facilities in the Union are outdated and to increase their usefulness, I want to establish renovation plans for these spaces to be more accessible to students.

What do you think are the incumbent President of the Union’s strengths and weaknesses? What would you do to improve upon them if you were elected?

Keegan Caraway: One of the things I admire most about Chip is his ability to interact with people. His level of positivity is seen in every Executive Board meeting by the air of calmness and level of happiness seen in Executive board members. It seems as though everyone has a real passion for student government and likes being at Executive Board meetings. The only thing I think Chip has struggled with this past year has been some slight organization issues. I have attended meetings where I felt a lack of organization resulted in less productive meetings.

Rasika Ekhalikar: Charles Kirchner has done a lot for the Union over the past year and has been a great President of the Union. I admire Chip’s ability to stay level headed during discussions over controversial issues. He also has been a great leader by being professional, leading by example, and motivating people to be better E-Board representatives. It is true that he has paid a lot of attention to the Executive Board Committees; however, he spent little time communicating with the joint committees. Both UAR and SGC committees have large room for improvement and this margin could have been avoided focusing on more communication with committee chairs to make sure the committees were operating to their fullest capacity. If I were elected as PU, in order to make sure committees are focused and accomplishing their goals, I would meet with the chairs regularly and create a list of goals and timelines at the beginning of semesters to increase accountability and maintain efficiency.

Harrison Leinweber: Chip is great at accomplishing projects. He is also an effective coordinator of the Board. He’s amicable and easily approachable, and encourages productive discussions during meetings. Chip doesn’t provide enough communication back to students on policy and accomplishments of the Board. He has also been relatively quiet about administrative encroachments on the Union and what’s being done to prevent them.
If elected, I will explore additional avenues communicating information back to the student body. I’ll also ensure the public is well informed about projects and policy developments. I will make sure the students know that I am working with them to protect the Union and comment on student rights issues in the Derby and online.

Matthew Rand: Chip Kirchner has been a phenomenal President of the Union. He has been a strong leader, he has stayed impartial and allowed his Board to make their own decisions, and he has been an advocate of student rights to the administration. However, I believe in some cases he has allowed for a lack of communication and transparency with the operation of the Executive Board, by not publicizing our operations and our ongoing projects. My goal is to improve communication between the Board and the student body to ensure concerns are met and that all students are aware of the work of the Board and our vision for the future of the Union.

What is your plan for dealing with changes that will accompany the rollout of Summer Arch?

Keegan Caraway: When it comes to Summer Arch I believe it is important to ensure that Union Services are adjusted to include these new months of more “full” operation. I think more research and discussion needs to occur on how clubs will operate over the summers and what opportunities and drawbacks of doing so are. The first summer arch session will definitely be a time of collecting data for decisions on how things will be run for future sessions from a Union standpoint.

Rasika Ekhalikar: The Executive Board will need to create a model for Summer Arch operations that can be translated for clubs. One of my thoughts was to have students who are on campus meet once a week as a committee and tackle various projects that can be completed over the summer. This summer, I would have the committee work with the Admin office to help clubs program and create proposals to allow clubs to spend the money out of the RU Summer Arch Budget. Furthermore, the committee would begin gathering student input on the events they would like to see during the summer. Clubs can use this idea as a similar model, by having members on campus meet once a week and do programs on a smaller scale. In terms of Union Operations, the Business Operations Committee has already met with the businesses in the Union and talked about increasing their hours for the summer. The administrative office will also have to increase its hours to provide support for clubs.

Harrison Leinweber: There are two main problems that affect the Union for Summer Arch: lack of programming, and lack of E-Board’s decision-making presence. In order to solve the first problem, we’ll have to explore what sorts of programming students would like to see as well as what is necessary and practical. The Union Administration Office staff have been working on some plans for this summer, but future summers will require feedback from the student body. To solve the second problem, I foresee monthly virtual meetings as well as monthly checkups by E-Board reps with clubs that elect to remain active during the summer term. We’re required to have meetings at least twice a semester, and with summer being considered a semester, we should adhere to the bylaws. I don’t foresee many large projects coming up midsummer, so most of the meetings could be quick reports on what’s occurred.
During the calendar year, we’ll need to examine the effect of third-year representatives going elsewhere for their semester. I would like to see them stay involved with the Executive Board digitally at meetings, but it is possible they may not be able to properly represent their clubs, in which case, a replacement appointment would need to be made. It is very difficult to predict the exact effects, but I’ll analyze the issues that do occur and investigate possible changes to the E-Board’s bylaws and procedures with the Policy Committee.
For the future summers, we’ll need to solicit feedback from students this and next summer about how they felt their clubs and activities went. Hopefully, we can apply some of this feedback to further improve the program.

Matthew Rand: Summer Arch provides new opportunities to our students while also introducing interesting new challenges. The one thing that we must ensure stays constant throughout the rollout of Summer Arch is that the Union continues to stay at the forefront of Student Life. Beyond increasing summer programming (such as movie nights, musicians, and performers), the Union must make sure that facilities like the McNeil room and the Rathskellar stay open to students. Additionally, the structure of the Executive Board will need to be revised for the summer months when our body might not be available. During my time, I worked to rewrite our Bylaws multiple times in preparation for this rollout and to make sure that the Executive Board stays functional and continues to be a resource to students, to clubs and organizations, and to our Administrative Staff.

How do you plan to encourage students to fully utilize the resources of the Union?

Keegan Caraway: I intend to encourage students to fully utilize Union resources by encouraging them to join clubs on campus, take part in intramural sports on campus, and use the Mueller center as well as other similar resources. I believe the best way to do this is through publicity campaigns about when and where things are; when intramural sports seasons start, what events are going on in the union and Mueller center. Additionally, I think some of the more auxiliary services the Union provides, like the Union lawyer, should be better publicized so students can utilize these less obvious resources.

Rasika Ekhalikar: In order to get students to use Union resources, we need to make sure students know about them. I propose to use the marketing work-study students in the Union to create a pamphlet that could be distributed to first-year students through the Resident Hall staffs during SO. In addition, these pamphlet could be in the Admin Office, so any student could get one. The website also needs to be reorganized to make it more user friendly so students can easily access information about clubs and events.

Secondly, the best way to use Union resources is by joining a club and going to events! The Executive Board needs to make sure that all students attend the Activities Fair and that clubs market their programs well to increase the attendance at events and programs. Finally, increasing advertising for the intramurals, which will increase attendance and encourage students to use the facilities.

Harrison Leinweber: I think the Student Government Communication Committee and the website need to be reworked. Once that happens, we’ll be able to provide the students with notification of activities, and easier access to information. Since many students currently don’t know everything the Union offers, we could have a monthly feature online. Furthermore, we may be able to work with the Office of Student Living and Learning (previously Residence Life) to promote Union activities and services to freshmen, thereby establishing a base of knowledge and hopefully developing habitual usage of services.

Matthew Rand: I believe that the best way to encourage students to utilize Union facilities is to invest in the physical plant of the Union and work to upgrade its facilities. I helped work to get new tables and chairs in the McNeil room when I first joined the Board and want to continue that work. I want to increase the availability of outlets in the Union, the availability of study spaces, and increase the space available for club meetings throughout the building.