Light shed on Outing Club’s trip cancellation

On Thursday, September 7, 2017, the Rensselaer Union Executive Board voted to close their meeting and discuss the Rensselaer Outing Club. While the minutes from the meeting are not public, memos from President of the Union Matthew Rand ’19 and the Outing Club leadership have been made available and shed some light on what led up to the cancellation of the Outing Club’s Fall Lake George trip.

In the closed meeting, the E-Board discussed the Outing Club’s alleged violations of Executive Board, Union, and Institute policies. The E-Board then passed two motions: one was to “suspend operations of the Outing Club immediately if any alcohol is found on the Fall Lake George trip or unsafe activity is happening, as determined by certified Union staff members,” and the other placed the Outing Club on probation status.

Probation status is defined in the E-Board’s Club Sunsetting Policy as “a semester long period in which the club is under review by the Union Executive Board and Policies Committee to determine its continuance as a club.” Ultimately, the Outing Club must fulfill requirements set by the E-Board within one semester or it will no longer be recognized as a club.

No members of Outing Club were informed of the discussion or motions until the next day. The Outing Club expressed to The Poly their disappointment that they weren’t given a chance to speak for themselves in front of the E-Board. After the club was informed of the motions, they made the decision to cancel the Fall Lake George trip.

Rand wrote that “an issue regarding the Outing Club’s lack of cooperation in compliance to risk management policies was brought before the Board by both members of the administrative staff and Executive Board.”

He went on to say that the Outing Club’s leadership has “provided constant pushback” and “unwillingness to comply with risk management and liability mitigation procedures.” This has led to a “rift between the Union and the club’s leadership,” he added.

In a memo issued in response to Rand, the Outing Club expressed that they took great care to keep the event alcohol-free, saying that they “told every single student, as they signed up, that alcohol on the island would not be tolerated this year.” Despite their efforts to ensure that the event is dry, they canceled the trip, as they were unable to guarantee that everyone in attendance will adhere to their rules.

The motion to suspend operations of the Outing Club if alcohol is found raises the question of whether the E-Board has the authority to issue judgments of policy violations.

Representative Jared Segal ’19 spoke about this in the E-Board’s September 14 meeting, saying that the Rensselaer Union Constitution does not say that the E-Board can punish a club, but does say that it is the Judicial Board’s job.

According to the Union Constitution, “the Executive Board shall act as the primary budgeting body of the Union.” The Judicial Board, however, “shall be the primary court of judgment for cases in which the concept of student rights, responsibilities, or conduct is in question.”

Grand Marshal Justin Etzine ’18 also spoke on the issue during the September 14 E-Board meeting, saying that only the Judicial Board and the Senate’s Rules and Elections Committee can issue rulings on policies.

The Outing Club concluded by saying that their pushback against risk management and liability procedures is productive, because it leads to a more practical and safer approach in the future while allowing members to grow their leadership skills. Rand wrote that “the Outing Club is in good hands and has a strong core of officers to help lead the club to a stronger future on campus.”