Student Senate

E-Board appointments approved

For the second week in a row, the approval of various Student Government appointments was on the Senate agenda. This week, the majority of appointees were future members of the Union’s Executive Board, which budgets and manages student money. Members of the Senate did not approve Grand Marshal Meagan Lettko’s only appointment of the night, Jayshon Adams ’20, to the position of deputy grand marshal.

The creation of this position was made possible moments earlier by a vote to change the The Bylaws of the Rensselaer Union Senate. The original motion intended to allow the grand marshal to “at their discretion, nominate other non-voting officers to assist with administering the business of the Senate.” This motion passes 17-0-1, after an amendment to change “appoint” to “nominate” moved by Vice Grand Marshal Advaith Narayan ’21. This change was opposed by former President of the Union Justin Etzine, who was attending the meeting as a visitor, “As long as the essence of what it’s trying to do is the same thing … it can be any word you want.” The amendment now allows the Grand Marshal to create officer positions throughout the year whose nominated appointees need to be approved by the Senate with a two-thirds vote.

After this motion passed, Lettko was able to nominate Adams to the position of “Deputy Grand Marshal” which was created as a supplement to the vice grand marshal position. This supplement was seen as necessary because current vice grand marshal, Advaith Narayan ’21, will be on co-op for his fall semester, and is likely to be off campus during that time. When approving Narayan for his appointment, Lettko mentioned the upcoming appointment of someone to fulfill some of his duties while he would be away. During the introduction of the motion, she explained “for myself, I think it would be very helpful to have somebody physically here, if not to only fill in for me, but to be, you know, just that body who can also be a resource to committees, because we do have ten committees.”

Multiple members of the Senate—including Narayan, Graduate Senator Neha Keshan, and 2020 Senator Tahsin Islam—expressed concern for the lack of clarity for the position, and the appointment of an officer without clear duties. Former Senator Bryan Johns ’19—who also expressed disapproval of the previous motion—said, “I feel like there has to be a conversation first about what this position would be … and those conversations haven’t really happened yet.”

Lettko defended the motion. “This is just, you know, a way that I saw as being something proactive that could potentially happen right now, so that it doesn’t have to be cleaned up in the future. And that’s why I wanted to at least bring it to the Senate, if it is or is not passed, at least we tried to do something,” she said.

Keshan moved to close discussion, and Lettko called the question. The resolves of the motion failed at 10-6-2, which did not meet the two-thirds requirement for nominated officers.

The Senate then moved into confirming the Executive Board appointments made by President of the Union Caitlin Kennedy ’20. Of the 14 nominations voted on, there was one opposing vote. Of the 14 appointees, four members are returning to the Board. Class Representatives included Iris Erlanger for the Class of 2020, Rida Rahman for the Class of 2021, and Yaseen Mahmoud for the Class of 2022. Both Mahmoud and Rahman had served on the previous Board.

Seven club and organization representatives were approved. Appointees were Deepika Kothakapa ’22, Alexander Huck ’22, Cassidy Schultz ’21, Varsha Kuchi ’21, Brandon Huang ’21, Chandra Williams’, and Auston Tighe ’21. Benjamin Volk ’21, Matthew Zapken ’21, and Student Government Communications Committee Chair Christine Magunga ’21 were appointed as members at large. Questions were asked of the appointees, and Magunga, a returning member of the E-Board, was questioned for the most amount of time. She stood in front of the Senate for around ten minutes, while others were questioned for around two to three minutes each. No senators expressed any concerns about her appointment, opting to ask her questions about her plans for her time on the Executive Board.

The Senate ended their meeting after hearing from Adam Circle ’19, a student who shared his idea for a “Lunch with Professor” program. In his presentation, he vouched for a program that allows students to take professors of their choosing to lunch, free of cost. The goal would be to help students create relationships with their professors without the barrier of price. He proposed funding to come from multiple areas, both the Institute and the Union. He offered solutions to problems that may be found, such as a capping the number of times it can be used for professors and students and partnering with restaurants or on-campus dining to reduce cost. He had consulted and gathered support from both students and professors through social media based polls and personally reaching out.

After some questioning from the Senate on the feasibility and details of the program, Circle clarified that “I’m not proposing this program, I’m looking for people that are interested in supporting it, because—as I said—I’m graduating, so right now we’re looking for places for this program to live, whether it be under the Student Life Committee or one of the other committees.” The meeting concluded with another half hour of questioning.