Student Senate

Counseling Center recommendations endorsed

RPI fight song, dining services, referenda discussed during meeting

The Senate began its meeting on Monday by welcoming Senators Varsha Jayaprakash ’23 and Zoe Stetson ’22 to senator positions for their respective cohorts. The Senate then unanimously passed a motion to “endorse the recommendations outlined in the Counseling Center Services Survey Results and Recommendations document.” This information was discussed in the previous meeting.

[Read more about the meeting in which the Counseling Center survey results and recommendations were discussed in our article “Changes made to Counseling Center.”]

Various reports followed this vote, beginning with Grand Marshal Meagan Lettko ’20. She first recognized and commended the work being done by the pep band to gather signatures for a petition requesting for the establishment of “Hail! Dear Old Rensselaer!” as the official fight song of the institution. Next, she announced that the men’s soccer team had received a bid to the NCAA tournament and that they would be hosting the first and second rounds of the tournament this weekend at the East Campus Athletic Village. Lastly, Lettko congratulated the Community Relations Committee on hosting the first Troy’s Got Talent event this weekend.

Arch Task Force Chair Peter Gramenides ’20 then gave a brief report announcing a change in the time of their meetings, which will shift from Tuesdays to Mondays at 7 pm.

Senate-Executive Board Liaison Nate Sullivan ’22 reported that budgeting was completed this weekend.

Facilities and Services Chairperson Nick Dybas ’20 reported that he had scheduled meetings with the Office of Parking and Transportation about shuttle routes and the Department of Public Safety about meet and greets and other concerns on campus.

Next, Independent Senator Advaith Narayan ’21 elaborated on the petition to change the fight song that Lettko mentioned in her report. Narayan has reached out to both the Vice President of Student Life Peter Konwerski and the General Counsel and Secretary of the Institute Craig Cook. Narayan said that Cook does not think the song needs to be trademarked, but that Cook will further research the legality of the matter. Narayan also said Konwerski is waiting for a response from the Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Mary Simoni and Vice President for Information and Technology and Chief Information Officer John Kolb ’79.

After Narayan receives information from these contacts, he plans to provide updates. He also said that he believes this action is a “good thing to do for school spirit, which we don’t have a ton of at RPI.”

Chair of the Hospitality Services Advisory Committee Rhea Banerjee ’22 gave a report next. She recently met with Rensselaer Dining Services to discuss an official posting of the operational hours of dining halls and other locations on campus, better advertisement of the ten-minute meal swipe box program, more themed nights, and Sundae Sundays.

She wants to make clubs and other student groups aware that they could reserve the “UCook” station at Commons Dining Hall for a block of time, except between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm on weekdays.

There are meetings with administrators being conducted about meal plans, said Banerjee, and they are talking to other schools about their meal plans to better improve those at Rensselaer.

Class of 2022 Jeffrey Chai ’22 asked if there had been any progress on getting Simply to Go at Russell Sage Dining Hall to have earlier hours than 10 am, as his constituency had expressed concerns with the current hours. Lettko responded that she had brought it up at the October Facilities and Services Committee meeting, where it was said that it would be considered. She said she will follow up at the November meeting, which is next week.

During the invitation to speak, Narayan gave an update on the verbiage change to the role of Independent Senator that he and Independent Senator Emmanuel Gerardino ’21 proposed in October.

Narayan said that it would not require much change to the bylaws to reflect the role he and Gerardino were now filling—no longer representing a minority-sized, non-Greek population. The question also arises, Narayan says, about whether or not to open the position to Greek-life members. He warned that this would require changes to the constitution, which should not be taken lightly. Gramenides—who is a Greek Senator—expressed his support of opening the position to Greek students, while Web Technologies Group Chair Evan Lazaro ’21 suggested that there should then be a requirement of more nominations for the position. Class of 2020 Senator Marvin Rios ’20 also asked if it should be explicitly stated that graduate students also be able to run for the position, to which Narayan responded that the current language of the position description does not require an undergraduate to fill it, so this would not be necessary; he said this opportunity could be better advertised to graduate students.

Gramenides then discussed the use of referendums during the invitation to speak. He brought up the topic of using referendums to address specific policies of the Institute, not just the Union Constitution. Lettko and other members of the Senate said that while referendums can be used to vote to support or not support certain policies or to poll and assess the opinion of the student body regarding the policy, it cannot change the actual Institute policy.

Procedures for referenda are outlined in Article XII of the Union Constitution. A referendum vote can be conducted on “any matter except amendment of the Union Constitution when the Senate approves “any form of referendum question” by a two-thirds vote or receives a petition signed by at least 10 percent of all members of the Union. Referenda are passed if they are voted on by at least 20 percent of the “affected constituency” and approved by a majority vote of that group. As outlined in Section 4, “Upon its passage, a referendum shall be binding upon the constituency. The Student Senate shall enact any legislation necessary for its implementation. Unless otherwise provided for in the text of the referendum, it may be rescinded only by a similar referendum.”

Lazaro said that increased use of referendums for this purpose would require that students seriously consider the topics and put careful thought into their choices.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the senators split up into groups for a dedicated period of time to prepare materials for contacting and collecting feedback from their respective constituencies.

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