The Student Senate held a special meeting on March 21 through Webex to approve changes to the Student Government Election Handbook made to accommodate the transition to online classes. The changes included moving Student Government elections to Thursday, April 2, as well as updating the nomination procedure to allow for online gathering and submission. The Senate also discussed the third-party voting systems that are being considered for online elections.
Elections Commission Chairperson Keenan Adams ’21 announced during the Senate meeting on March 21 that the Elections Commission plans to use a third-party to host elections online due to the move to online-only classes. The two systems being considered are Helios Voting and ElectionBuddy.
In an email to the Rensselaer community on Wednesday afternoon, President Shirley Ann Jackson announced that this spring’s Commencement, planned for May 23, will take place in an online ceremony, adding that there will be an in-person celebration “when the public health situation allows us to do so.”
Students were informed that classes will be held online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester in an email sent from University President Shirley Ann Jackson at about 6:30 pm on Wednesday. In addition, “all undergraduate students in Rensselaer Residential and Greek Commons [are required] to move out of these residences by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020.”
An email sent at about 1:30 pm on Tuesday from University President Shirley Ann Jackson informed students that in-person instruction will be suspended until at least March 30 due to concerns regarding the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Rensselaer activated trigger level one of the University Pandemic Planning Protocols, as relayed in an RPI Alert received Saturday, after the confirmation of two cases of COVID-19 in Saratoga County.
President of the Union Caitlin Kennedy said in an email to club officers that the Union is reviewing all "Institute sponsored campus/public events" scheduled for March and April due to the coronavirus, adding that events may be rescheduled or canceled due to the "health risks of public gatherings."
The Senate met to hear two presentations regarding the New York State Senate Bill S7645 on February 24. One was given by Vice President for Student Life Peter Konwerski, who was accompanied by other members of Rensselaer’s administration, while the other presentation was given by members of Rensselaer for Ethics in Science, Engineering, and Technology.
Two emails, sent Thursday, described precautions students and faculty should take as the global outbreak of coronavirus spreads, and the protocols Rensselaer has in place should the outbreak reach the Capital Region.
Rensselaer Music Association moves forward with creating a recording studio in the J Building.
RPI Autism Self-Advocacy Network becomes Union-recognized, RPI Chinese Students and Scholars Association approved to compete at the Northeastern Chinese Basketball League tournament on March 14-15, and Rensselaer Running Club starter budget approved.
Rensselaer for Ethics in Science, Engineering, and Technology was approved for Union affiliation and RPI Chess Club was approved as a Union-recognized club on February 13.
The Senate heard a proposal to increase the number of alternate members of the Judicial Board due to complications that arose because of the Arch. The amendment will need to be approved by the student body during Grand Marshal Week elections.
The Rensselaer community mourns the passing of graduate student Yeming Shen, after his roommate discovered him on February 10 in their apartment at City Station.
The Rensselaer Union website is currently undergoing maintenance to increase its functionality and address some issues. The site’s present status renders some information regarding clubs and Union events inaccessible to the greater student body, causing students to resort to social media such as Reddit and Facebook.
While Big Red Freakout and Winter Carnival went on without a hitch, administrators placed severe restrictions on some students’ biggest events of the year, citing concerns with coronavirus. “It’s discriminatory and wrong,” said Multicultural Leadership Council member Sundjata Suma ’20 while discussing the issue in a meeting.
Rensselaer lobbied for the New York State Senate bill that would grant peace officer status to certain public safety officers, which was posted publicly on the government website earlier this month and sparked concern in the RPI community. There has been no communication about this initiative to the student body, besides the bill’s posting.
The student mail center has been relocated to the first floor of the Rensselaer Union and will open on Monday. It now features an “intelligent parcel locker” system for packages aimed at decreasing wait times.
“Hail! Dear Old Rensselaer” was endorsed as the official fight song of students by the Senate after a petition advocating for this change reached 275 signatures.
The main issues brought to light through the report include low pay, comparatively low usage of Union resources, and tense student-advisor relations.
New shuttle routes, already approved by the Institute, were presented to and endorsed by the Student Senate on November 25, and then advertised to the student body. Since then, the routes have been changed twice, both by the Institute and the Facilities and Services Committee of the Student Senate.
The Executive Board approved $12,000 for the Business Operations Committee to purchase two Xerox printers for installation in the Rensselaer Union lobby and the Mueller Center study area. A Jazz Invitational was also approved to be hosted by the Rensselaer Jazz Ensemble and funded by the Union.
The Facilities and Services Committee presented a follow-up report to the senate about facilities concerns found during the Light Walk. In addition, the Arch Task Force introduced a mental health module to its Arch preparatory course, and the Hospitality Advisory Services Committee announced several projects that will begin implementation next semester.
The Executive Board approved Union recognition for the Mediterranean Student Club, and the Art Club received Union funding on Thursday.