Student Senate

Senate recognizes Arch away students as Union members

Arch away students now able to vote in elections, hold club leadership positions

The Student Senate passed a motion to recognize students participating in their Arch semester away as Union members on February 17. This recognition allows students away on Arch to vote during the GM Week elections and hold club leadership positions, which only Rensselaer Union members are permitted to partake in.

The motion states that “students that are required to participate in the Arch program are required to spend a semester away from campus in exchange for a summer semester on campus, and those students pay for the Union Activity Fee both during the summer semester and the semester opposing their away semester, constituting a full payment of the Union Activity Fee.”

Grand Marshal Advaith Narayan ’21 explained that “Over the course of the academic year, the total Activity Fee amount paid by students is the same, whether they do it across the Summer plus Fall, Summer plus Spring, or Spring plus Fall.” He added that President of the Union Anissa Choiniere ’21 and Rensselaer Union Business Administrator Martha McElligott confirmed that the Union “won’t stand to lose a lot of money from this [recognition of Arch away students as Union members]” and that there is no extra financial burden placed on the Union when Arch away students participate in elections, student government, or club activities.

By recognizing two semesters’ worth of payment of the Activity Fee as a full payment for one academic year, the Senate “formally [recognizes] students participating in the Arch semester away as members of the Union during their semester away.” The motion passed unanimously.

Article II of the Rensselaer Union Constitution states that “All students, both graduate and undergraduate, presently enrolled at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, hereinafter referred to as Rensselaer, who have paid the Union Activity Fee, shall constitute the membership of the Union.” As students who are away on Arch do not specifically pay the Activity Fee for that semester which they are not at RPI, they were previously not recognized as members of the Union and unable to vote in GM week elections. During last year’s GM Week elections, the inclusion of Arch away students in the voting body led to at the time Judicial Board Chairperson Adam Rabinowitz saying the election essentially was invalid during a Senate meeting. However, since no one filed an appeal, the J-Board did not take any action to investigate and the results stood.

In his Top Hat regarding this motion, Narayan wrote that during his Arch away semester in the Fall of 2019, he paid an extra semester’s activity fee to continue serving as Vice Grand Marshal. However, he added that “paying an extra semester’s activity fee is not a sustainable solution, especially when you look at how the lack of leadership continuity is affecting our Union’s clubs and the financial burden that the Arch is already placing on students.”

By adding this caveat to the definition of a Union member, this motion also circumvents directly amending the Rensselaer Union Constitution. The recognition of Arch away students as Union members was also added to the Grand Marshal Week 2021 Elections Handbook and the Rensselaer Union Guidelines and Procedures.