Student Senate

Sustainability, create-your-own meal plan petitions discussed

The Student Senate met in the Shelnutt Gallery for their first meeting of the new year on Monday, September 9. Senators heard and discussed two Student Senate petitions that gathered over 250 signatures each over the summer. After this, they approved two appointments and passed the Freshman Elections Handbook.

The first presentation to the Senate pertained to the climate action plan petition and was presented by the Student Sustainability Task Force. They explained the need for a plan to bring Rensselaer to zero carbon emissions by 2030, and the creation of an Institute position of “Sustainability Director.” Senators expressed resounding support of the petition, but desired a more defined plan to reach these goals.

The task force responded with the sentiment that as students it should not fall solely on them to create Institute plans. “With an administrational representative we can set more realistic of a framework, instead of us students trying to balance our school life and trying to get RPI more sustainable,” said Student Sustainability Task Force Chairperson Maya Navabi ’20. The Senate responded agreeably to this, and Vice Grand Marshal Advaith Narayan ’21 proposed a motion at the end of the meeting to express support. The motion included a whereas clause to recognize both the petition and the SSTF’s presentation, and resolves to thank the task force and “advocate” for collaboration. The Senate unanimously decided the wording of the motion was not strong enough, and the issue was tabled to a later meeting.

The second petition presented focused on the removal of the create-your-own meal plan for upperclassmen. Hospitality Services Advisory Committee Chair Rhea Banerjee ’22 and Class of 2022 President Chevy Chen stood in front of the Senate to discuss the problems this creates for members of the sophomore class. Senators were upset by the removal of the cheapest meal option, and expressed distrust in Sodexo’s motivations. Multiple students believed it was an attempt to make more money for the company, rather than the claim that it was a logistical move to relieve overcrowding in the Rathskellar. Interfraternity Council Senator Peter Gramenides ’20 said he was “incredibly skeptical” that the meal plan was removed due to recent renovations, and that rather “they probably actually removed it because it’s a revenue boost from the people who spend more money on the meal plans.”

When asked how the Senate could support the sophomores, Banerjee responded that though she has voiced the concerns of students to Sodexo administration, “at the end of the day I’m not sure how much more as a community we can do.” The Senate did not make any resolutions or take any action as a result of the presentation.

The meeting then moved into hearing and voting on the motions before them. This began with approvals of appointments made by both the grand marshal and president of the Union. First, Ben Volk ’20 was approved by the Senate as a member-at-large of the Executive Board. Volk was approved to his position as chair of the Business Operations Committee by the E-Board in their first meeting on September 5, assuming the role from Interim Chair Yaseen Mahmoud ’22. Volk expressed his intentions to increase health and safety initiatives in the committee.

Immediately following this, the grand marshal’s appointment of Nick Dybas as chair of the Facility and Services Committee was approved. He assumed the role from Interim Chair Nancy Bush ’19. Dybas cited his years of experience on the FSC, and his plans going forward to improve the shuttle route system and sustainability on campus. Both appointments were approved unanimously.

The Class of 2023 Freshman Elections Handbook was passed unanimously with minimal discussion. Elections Commission Chair Lucas Davis ’20 gave a short report, explained that the Elections Commission is mostly empty, and said that the Rensselaer Union Voting System will be used for the freshman elections.

The Student Senate holds open meetings in the Shelnutt Gallery every Monday at 8 pm.