Student Senate

Kolb presents Greek Life Task Force updates

On September 25, the Senate meeting began with the grand marshal’s report, during which Stefanie Warner ’19 informed the Senate that the Student Government website will be up this week and will be under the Web Technologies Group’s control. Other goals were mentioned and discussed, such as a volunteer calendar, campus beautification projects, and more storage spaces for the summer months.

The meeting then proceeded with a presentation by the Vice President for Information Service and Technology and Chief Information Officer John E. Kolb regarding the Greek Life Task Force. The end goal of the task force is to examine the activities of Greek life and reform Greek organizations on campus so that they may be an example to other universities. Some of the ideas discussed included a ban on alcohol and hazing. Kolb also recounted his desire to begin more extensive bystander awareness and training courses akin to those taken by athletes during preseason. The task force aims to utilize Clustered, Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students, also known as CLASS, within the Greek system as well as tackle issues of diversity, inclusiveness, mental health, and discrimination; this will be done by providing more support and resources for Greek students. Kolb also discussed financial stability within the houses, as the issues with funding affect cleanliness and sanitation.

When asked why the task force wished to delay rush, Kolb reported the sentiment shared by the rest of the task force—to fix the system. Some things need to be pushed aside before bringing on new members. The first goal of the task force is to release a draft report by the end of October and a completed report by November.

After the Greek Life Task Force presentation, Policies Chairperson David Raab ’19 presented changes to The Bylaws of the Rensselaer Union proposed by the Executive Board, which were approved in the Board’s previous meeting.

After changes to The Bylaws of the Executive Board were passed 17-0-1, Senator Bryan Johns ’19 presented a motion which resolved to “support any initiatives by groups within RPI with the goal of increasing the safety and inclusion for all members of the RPI community,” “to condemn any and all acts of discrimination and harassment,” and, “to reaffirm [the Student Senate’s] dedication to creating an environment guaranteeing equal opportunity, safety, and inclusion.”

The motion was brought to the Senate because of issues regarding bigotry which were addressed in an email that President Shirley Ann Jackson sent to the entire campus in the 2018 Spring semester.

In response to the motion, Graduate Senator Joshua Beard asked, “Am I correctly interpreting this in that this has no direct action, it’s just a statement?” Johns responded by saying, “The particular reason why we want to do this is because we haven’t said anything about these past incidents, and not even going so far as saying what are the next steps, we just want to say this is our position on things.”

Graduate Senator Kinshuk Panda expressed, “I personally think that even though the intentions behind the motion are good, I just think that this motion is extremely weak, and that we should not pass it as it is before we add some additional measure the Senate intends to take. At this point, it just sounds like we need to back this motion up with tangible actions and that at this point this motion, although well intended, should not come right now, but should come after a detailed discussion with the Student Life Committee.”

“I think talk is cheap. We should do something more than just say, ‘Hey guys, don’t be terrible people’,” expressed Graduate Senator Andrew DiBasio.

“My concern with this motion right now is that this motion will lose its significance, because once we pass this motion, we will feel that this is behind us. The significance of the issues which will be brought up later will not be reflected, because we would have passed this motion, which would already have condemned such actions. Any changes that you bring will not have their weight when you pass this motion without any teeth right now,” added Panda.

After a lengthy discussion and a five-minute recess to allow for more open discussion, the Student Senate decided to table the motion until the next meeting, at which point they can pass a similar motion with more significant action.

During the press and visitor Q&A section of the meeting, The Polytechnic asked about the current state of the Elections Reform Task Force. Warner responded by saying, “As I said last week, I’ve personally been asking where that report is right now, and supposedly they’re still waiting on it as well. I have been hearing a few other bits of information, but I’m still waiting on confirming that, but work is still being done. I’ll be sure to give you a more in-depth update later.” When asked whether there would be weekly reports as to the status of the task force, like there were during the Spring semester, Warner confirmed she would start giving weekly updates.

The Student Senate meets every Monday at 8 pm in the Shelnutt Gallery.