STUDENT SENATE

Senate overrides E-Board policy on livestreaming

EXECUTIVE BOARD-SENATE LIAISON JOE VENUSTO '19 DETAILS the Board's previous meeting, in which a policy prohibiting livestreaming was passed 15-1-1.

On Wednesday, the Student Senate passed a resolution regarding the recording and livestreaming of open student government body meetings, approved the Grand Marshal Week 2018 Handbook, and failed to approve the appointment of an Executive Board representative.

The Senate resolved to “make all open meetings of student government bodies recordable or open to livestreaming by any member of the Union, and to stipulate that all Union policies that state otherwise must be updated accordingly.” The resolution passed unanimously and can be seen in its entirety at poly.rpi.edu/s/lsrp.

The resolution was made in response to an amendment to the Rensselaer Union Executive Board Special Rules of Order that prohibits livestreaming; the amendment further states that anyone who records meetings must announce that they are doing so and “immediately stop recording when asked to by the President.” According to the policy, the president of the Union “may also request that all copies of an audio or video recording be deleted in front of the President if there is reason to believe the recording captured sensitive or confidential information.”

“These policies are adopted to ensure the privacy of any party presenting sensitive financial or personal information to the Board and to allow the Board to freely express its opinions without interruption from biased parties,” the policy later reads.

The discussion of livestreaming was initially brought up to the Board by Independent Senator Stefanie Warner ’19.

According to Warner, she “asked for a simple discussion on the idea of livestreaming their meetings” and had “what [she] thought was a good discussion” in an E-Board meeting on January 25. Warner later worked with the Policies Committee and helped create a survey for Board members. She was never informed of the results or informed of the addition to, and vote on, the policy.

“These are the people who are handling quite literally the tax dollars of the people that we represent. There should be more accountability, not less,” expressed graduate student Steve Sperazza.

Many senators agreed that if information is sensitive enough that it should not be livestreamed or recorded, the Executive Board should exercise its ability to close the meeting.

President of the Union Matt Rand ’19 was made aware of the resolution via an email following the meeting, in which Grand Marshal Justin Etzine ’18 wrote, “As the chief policymaking body of the Union, the Student Senate has enacted this resolution as a new Union policy.” The resolution was attached.

The Senate also approved a motion to amend the Bylaws of the Rensselaer Union Student Senate by replacing all instances of “Rules and Elections Committee” with “Elections Commission.”

Elections Commission Chairperson Caleb Caraway ’19 explained that while looking through old GM Week handbooks, he learned that the committee was formerly responsible for more than elections; it was also in charge of keeping records of all club bylaws and constitutions. The committee now focuses entirely on elections, and Caraway felt the name change to Elections Commission would be more appropriate. The motion passed unanimously.

Caraway also presented the Grand Marshal Week 2018 Handbook with some major changes, the largest of which transfers the responsibility of entering nominations from members of the committee to candidates, candidate assistants, and candidate proxies. Nominations will be entered through the elections website, which can be found at elections.union.rpi.edu, and validated by the committee.

Other large changes included restricting the presiding grand marshal and president of the Union from being candidate assistants, allowing candidates besides the grand marshal and president of the Union to pollsit, and removing a line about the use of sign holders on the 15th Street footbridge, since they no longer exist.

Warner expressed concerns about Section 2, Item 3 of the elections rules, which stated, “Campaign materials shared equally between candidates may be charged equally between the candidates.” She felt that this could be misinterpreted to benefit candidates. An amendment to the motion that changed the word “may” to “must” was passed unanimously.

The Grand Marshal Week 2018 Handbook was then approved unanimously.

The Senate discussed Rand’s appointment of Deepika Senthilnathan ’21 as a club/ICA representative of the Executive Board. 

When asked to share a few words about herself, Senthilnathan expressed that she is “really excited to bring forth [her] ideas and support them by voting.” Her introduction was followed by a series of questions from members of the Senate.

When asked by Sperazza to elaborate on the aforementioned ideas, Senthilnathan shared that, “during our meetings when we would recognize certain clubs, we would all have, like, an open discussion about how we feel. Some of my points that might be made would be more relevant and backed up with a voting right.”

“I’m a little worried about attendance. I was curious if you have any plans in mind as to how you could attend regularly,” expressed Warner later in the discussion.

Senthilnathan responded and said that she is currently only involved in the Indian Students Association and that they only meet a couple times each semester, so it won’t get in the way.

According to the Executive Board meeting minutes that are posted online at poly.rpi.edu/s/emin—which contain attendance sheets—Senthilnathan was present at five of the 11 meetings that have occurred since she joined the Board.

The motion to approve the appointment was tied 8-8-2, which then left Etzine with a vote. He abstained and the motion failed 8-8-3.

The Senate meets on Wednesdays at 8 pm in the Shelnutt Gallery.