STUDENT SENATE

Resolution urging ‘cancellation of judicial processes’ passed

Potential changes to shuttle routes, possibility of electronic candidate nominations presented

THE SENATE DISCUSSES recent judicial actions taken by the Dean of Students Office and their implications on the RPI student body.

On Monday, December 4, the Student Senate heard presentations on potential updates to shuttle routes and making candidate nominations electronic, and passed a resolution regarding the recent judicial actions taken against students.

In new business, a resolution acknowledging the “judicial processes underway involving members of the Rensselaer Union in relation to the peaceful demonstration that occurred on October 13, 2017” and urging “for the immediate cancellation of judicial processes involving the peaceful demonstration” was passed with a vote of 16-5-2.

It also recognized “the actions taken by the Dean of Students Office as violations of the Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities, specifically the ‘Student Bill of Rights,’ Article V, Section D.”

When the resolution was moved by Hannah Merrow ’18, she yielded her time to Bryan Johns ’19, one of the two students who is being charged with “trespassing,” “violation of a published Rensselaer/student government policy or regulation,” and “failure to comply.” Johns was the original applicant for the peaceful demonstration that was denied, but he shared that he did not follow up on the application and attended the protest solely as a participant. The other student facing judicial inquiries, Graduate Senator Michael Gardner, was also present.

Johns distributed a variety of documents, including his case and an incident summary. He began by stating that the cases are “an attack on student rights” that are “particularly directed at [Gardner] and I, to target us.”

Johns then went through the incident summary prepared by Director of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Judicial Affairs Michael Arno and addressed statements he viewed as false; these included his identification as a leader of the protest and the claim that he was on WRGB CBS 6 News promoting the protest. He felt that most of the information in the summary was inaccurate and irrelevant to the actual evidence presented in the case.

Johns stated that his hearing officer said his specific trespassing violations were “unauthorized entry” and “the refusal to leave or to release any property when ordered to do so by the person having jurisdiction over it.” Johns claimed that the administration “flip-flopped” on their reasoning for the fence, citing contradictory statements released in various articles, and that they didn’t publicly state that the area was restricted before the protest.

“If they’re charging me with trespassing, they should be charging all the other 900 students with trespassing,” stated Johns. He also shared that he was not at the protest when the fence was moved, and that, when he arrived and went through the fence, the Public Safety officers present didn’t stop him.

“One of the things they mentioned in the incident report is that both Michael and I, first, did not do anything to tell people not to go through the fence, and also once people were through the fence we didn’t tell them to leave,” stated Johns on the topic of his “violation of a published Rensselaer/student government policy or regulation.”

Johns then referenced the Student Handbook, specifically its statement that “judgment as to whether the regulations are being observed shall be made at the scene by the Dean of Students or designee.” He later continued, citing the Handbook again, “Responsibility for exercising such judgment shall rest solely with the Dean of Students or designee. It must be emphasized that judgment as to whether the regulations are being observed shall not be exercised by demonstrators, those demonstrated against, or spectators in contradiction to the expressed judgment of the Dean of Students or designee, except at the risk of such individuals.”

According to the Handbook, if regulations are breached, “[the Dean of Students or designee] will request the participants to modify their conduct so as to comply with the regulations, indicating briefly and informally the nature of the breach of regulations and the requested corrective action.”

However, Johns stated that nobody received this kind of direction, and communications with the Troy Police Department at the protest seemed to point in the opposite direction.

“My personal worry about this whole process is that they’re singling out students to perpetuate the culture of fear,” expressed Johns.

Following Johns’s presentation to the Senate, the original motion was amended to strike that the Senate would resolve to “deplore the actions of the Dean of Students Office, in full awareness of the situations, to allow this unjust process based on the evidence present at the start of the case” with a vote of 12-9-2.

The amendment to strike this section was moved by Graduate Senator Kinshuk Panda, who shared that it was “amazingly abrasive” and that it would be “extremely reckless for us to not, to pass judgment without the judicial process coming to a conclusion with the events that happened.” He continued, “By doing this, we are only antagonizing the administration even further.”

Later in the discussion, Class of 2018 Senator Steve Sperazza stated, “I risk a bit saying this, but I’m sure they have some of a probable cause for me and a lot of other people as well, but they chose to go after [Johns]. They chose to, I guess, retaliate against this person … I got up there, I said my RIN, a lot of other people did … they could have gone after a lot of people. That’s kind of important.”

The final motion and the roll call of votes can be viewed at poly.rpi.edu/s/sq0d4. The initial drafted version that was sent out to the Senate with the agenda for the meeting can be viewed at poly.rpi.edu/s/l8ify.

Project Lead Lily Wang ’20 and Facilities and Services Chairperson Nancy Bush ’19 gave a presentation updating the Senate on the shuttles.

Wang discussed common issues and complaints, which included having an insufficient number of shuttles, too many stops on the East Shuttle route, and inconsistencies between scheduled stop times and when the drivers actually show up. Wang stated that more drivers cannot be hired because of a lack of Institute resources.

She also presented the proposed routes that will be tested over winter break; they aim to make the routes more even by moving the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority stop to the West shuttle route, therefore eliminating the loop that passes B-Lot twice. There are some concerns about the doors being on the wrong side of the street, but these will be addressed in the testing phase.

Web Technologies Group Chairperson Sidney Kochman ’19 and Rules and Elections Committee Chairperson Caleb Caraway ’19 then presented on potential changes to how candidate nominations for elections are submitted and processed.

Currently, candidates solicit the proper number of nominations on paper forms. They are then submitted to the Rules and Elections Committee, which enters the information into their system. According to Caraway, this is a tedious process for the few people on the committee.

Kochman and Caraway plan to have candidates continue to fill out a sheet, but also enter that information into the elections site themselves. The logistics are still being figured out, but candidates would still have to submit physical sheets so that RnE can verify them and ensure that all of the nominations are not written in the same handwriting or that no errors were made.

Grand Marshal Justin Etzine ’18 added that there is no motion at this point, since this has not been implemented, but it will be part of the next GM Week handbook proposed in early February 2018.

During committee reports, Academic Affairs Chairperson Risheel Gabbireddy ’18 shared that ALAC will be testing drop-in tutoring with organic chemistry.

Student Life Committee Chairperson Hannah Merrow ’18 said that she and Etzine had their meeting with the Board of Trustees and that it was “interesting at best.”

Kochman stated that the Shuttle Signups project is on track to be deployed next semester. He also shared that a lot of Institute-related websites will have to change because of a new web accessibility policy from the Division of the Chief Information Officer. WebTech will be looking at and potentially evaluating  these changes over winter break.

The Senate will have its last meeting of the semester next Monday at 8 pm in the Shelnutt Gallery.