Student government hosts town hall

On October 7, in response to the resolution passed in the Senate, there was a town hall meeting in the McNeil Room to discuss the current state of the Rensselaer Union. It was led by senator Hannah Merrow ’18, and the panel members consisted of the current Grand Marshal Justin Etzine ’17, Greek Senator Sean Ferracioli ’17, Class of 2018 Executive Board Representative Erica Lane ’18, Senator Joshua Thomas ’20, Graduate Senator Michael Gardner, Senator Steven Sperazza ’18, and Senator Chris Duffy ’20.

The meeting started out with a brief summary regarding the Union’s history from its founding in 1890 until the present day.

The meeting then transitioned into a question and answer session with the student panel. When asked about his mention of “thinly-veiled threats of retaliation and expulsion” in his email to members of the Union, Etzine refused to name anyone specifically, but did state that “they did occur and they were concerning enough to me that I felt it was prudent to mention it to everyone, so that people could understand the kind of the situation that we’re in.” Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Travis Apgar then requested the opportunity to respond as well, and assured everyone in the audience that “there will never be a case where any kind of action of that sort would take place for a student leader doing their job here.”

In response to further student questions, Etzine went on to talk about what the committee’s role was, and is, in the hiring process for the director of the Union. The committee participated in on-campus interviews, and he believes that, moving forward, they should have a closed meeting to discuss their thoughts on those interviews and to provide their feedback to the Executive Board. Lane also talked about what the committee has done, and mentioned on-campus interviews, phone interviews, and said that students were involved throughout that process.

Sperazza then spoke to the resolution that was just passed in the Senate, which stated that there was no conflict between the Union Constitution and the Institute’s Bylaws. He said that the resolution was mostly a response to the resolution put up by the Board of Trustees, and Etzine added that it was also an effort to respect the wishes of the Board of Trustees and reaffirm that the Constitution was, and still is, compliant with the Institute’s Bylaws.

Next, Etzine talked about the differences between a student-run Union, which we used to have, and a student-operated Union, which we have now. He said that the major one is that in a student-operated Union, students need to comply with the institute’s agenda, whereas when the Union is student-run that doesn’t need to be taken into account.

Apgar responded to a question asking if students participating in the upcoming protest could potentially face retaliation from the school by stating that civil discourse is highly valued on the Rensselaer campus, and that if a student is there voicing their concerns in a way that “is in line with civil discourse,” then they shouldn’t face any retribution. He also discussed the reasoning behind the denial of the protest application, citing a shortage of available staff to handle the event due to other events also occurring on the same day.