DERBY

PU shares Executive Board’s justification for banning recordings: privacy, comfort

Hello everyone! I apologize for my recent lapse in writing Derby articles for you all, but I wanted to check in and catch you all up to date. Usually, I like to start with a few pleasantries, but given all the information to get through, I will get started right away.

First, for anyone who missed it, the Union Annual Report Committee, a joint committee of the Senate and the Executive Board, successfully wrote and submitted the Union Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2019 to the Senate last week. That document was passed by the Senate and the report was forwarded on to Vice President Le Norman Strong, the Interim Vice President for Student Life, and has now been reviewed by Dr. Jackson in anticipation for review by the Board of Trustees. For anyone who is not familiar with the overall process for submitting the Union Annual Report, what I outlined above is the traditional route that the document takes on its way to the Board of Trustees. Once the Senate approves the document, the President of the Union releases the report to the Division of Student Life, specifically the Vice President and Assistant Vice Presidents. From there, the Division of Student Life forwards the document to the Division of Finance, as well as the Office of the President. Once the leadership of all of the aforementioned divisions reviews the document, the report is finally submitted to the Board of Trustees for their ultimate review and approval. As of now, that is where the document is and once the Board of Trustees have had a chance to review it, I should have an update for you all!

Secondly, I have noticed and received a lot of confusion regarding the Executive Board’s decision to restrict the ability for individuals to livestream our meetings that was ultimately overruled by a decision of the Senate. I want to be clear that the Executive Board did not act to restrict the rights of the public. The Board never sponsored a livestream of our meetings for a number of reasons which ultimately culminated to our (now void) decision to restrict that. Our meetings have always been open to the public, and our meeting minutes are publicly available on the Student Government website.

The Board’s decision was one that was made for what we believed to allow for the best possible environment for us to conduct business. As many of you are aware, the normal operations of the Executive Board in our general body meetings usually accomplish one of two goals: assist clubs with funding or operational support to provide programming to the club, or to start a new club on our campus. Both of these pieces of business are extremely important, but also extremely personal. Clubs, in my view, provide a livelihood to the members of our student body. A home, a place that provides structure and an extra dimension to a students experience at Rensselaer. So, when a club comes before the Board to ask for money, the determination has a very personal effect. Often, our decisions are the difference between a student paying out-of-pocket for a trip or a program and the Union funding that endeavor. Often, these decisions are both extremely personal and critical. In receiving feedback from club officers, it was determined that a camera would be a deterrent to many clubs who would feel uncomfortable coming to ask for support from the Board. Inherently, a camera would deter individuals and hinder the Board’s ability to perform our duties. And lastly, it helps to protect the members of the Board who have to make these personal decisions. For example, during the Turning Point discussion that was live streamed, multiple reports of personal attacks on members of the Board surfaced during and after the discussion. What kind of organization can effectively promote fairness, equity, and good governance in an environment where student members of that very group are attacked and shamed for making the tough decisions they are required to? I understand that as a student government body, we have a responsibility to our constituents. But, if that constituency is uncomfortable coming before the Board because they are uncomfortable by the presence of a camera, and members of that Board receive communications disparaging their character that ultimately affects their ability to execute their job function, is the decision to allow live streaming truly the best decision? Maybe it is, but the Board made the informed decision that it wasn’t for the best. It is quite a shame that no one asked for input from the Executive Board before unilaterally overturning our decision. I can only hope that it does not act to deter our clubs and organizations from coming to ask for support.

Thank you all, should anyone have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at pu@rpi.edu.