Rensselaer Union

Jackson appoints Union director without E-Board vote

In an email to the Rensselaer community on August 13, President Shirley Ann Jackson announced the appointment of Charlie Potts to the position of director of the Union. His appointment was not approved by the Union Executive Board, even though the Union Constitution gives the Board the power to “approve the hiring and continuance of all administrative personnel of the Union.” Jackson’s appointment raises the question of how closely and productively Potts will be able to work with Student Government in his new role.

According to President of the Union Justin Etzine ’19, both he and Grand Marshal Stef Warner ’19 were not told about Potts’ appointment until the morning of August 13 by Assistant Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Travis T. Apgar.  

In a comment on Reddit, Etzine wrote that when he “raised the fact that the Executive Board had no chance to vote,” he was told by Apgar that it was “[Etzine’s] fault for not scheduling a vote in time.” According to Etzine, he had not been told that the finalists were narrowed down until the morning Potts’ appointment was announced.

In an email to the Union membership list, Etzine and Warner deemed Potts’ hiring a violation of a recent Executive Board policy. This policy, which was enacted by the Board in its last meeting of the Spring 2018 semester, prohibits use of the Student Activity Fee to fund a position without the affirmative vote of the Board. However, according to Etzine, it seems the Division of Student Life does not plan to abide by this policy and will not hold back funding from the Student Activity Fee for the position.

Etzine and Warner also declared their intention to bring the hiring to the attention of the New York State Board of Regents.

In a statement to The Polytechnic, Etzine said that while he cannot speak on behalf of the Board, he believes “it would make little to no sense to retroactively approve [Potts’] hiring.” He added, “It would set a dangerous precedent to have the Executive Board only rubber stamp a process they were intentionally excluded from.”

When asked if he plans to work with Potts, Etzine wrote, “That question will have to be answered if the administration continues on their current path and illegitimately installs him on September 4th.”

Last September, Chairman of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees Arthur F. Golden ’66 emailed a resolution to the Rensselaer community affirming that the president has the “ultimate responsibility” for any hiring of a director of the Union. It declared that any parts of the Union Constitution in conflict with the Institute’s bylaws are superseded by the bylaws. It also requested that Student Government amend the Constitution to bring it “into conformance with the declarations of this Resolution.”

The Student Senate then passed a resolution resolving that the Constitution “is in full conformance with” the resolution and “no provisions of the Constitution conflict” with RPI’s bylaws. The Senate also considered several constitutional amendments related to the resolution in the Spring semester, but ultimately did not bring them to a vote.

Jackson, Apgar, Powell, and Vice President for Strategic Communications and External Relations Richie Hunter could not be reached for comment.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that “according to Etzine, it seems the Union Admin office does not plan to abide by this policy and will not hold back funding for the position.” However, it is not the Union Admin office that does not plan to abide by the policy, but rather the Division of Student Life. The source of the funding was also clarified.