Top Hat

Grand marshal encourages participation

By Justin Etzine February 28, 2018

RPI, I want you to run for student government.

When I tell people this, I have those who are quick to say yes or no, but the vast majority seem undecided, perplexed, or shy. Today’s Top Hat is dedicated to those in the middle.

One of the biggest drawing points for participating in student government is the ability to make a difference, both for their current classmates and for future students. Imagine being able to come back to campus as an alumnus, to see something you helped bring to campus, and to see the benefit students get from their contribution. The feelings of pride and satisfaction are indescribable, and they are for some—myself included—the primary motivators for serving in student government.

Well, what about how much time it requires? Positions vary greatly in the level of time commitment. If you are only looking for a few hours a month and have a knack for planning events for your class, try going for a class representative position. Same goes for graduate students; if you are not sure how much time you can take away from research, the graduate representative role allows you to get involved and make your voice heard with just a few meetings per month. For those who want a larger role with more commitments, try running for a senator seat! The senator role, which has representations of each class of undergraduate students, graduate students, Greek students, and non-Greek students, attends a few meetings per week and averages around six to eight hours a week of commitment. If you’d like to lead your undergraduate class council, you can also run for president and vice president roles!

The other rebuttal I hear is, “I’m not experienced enough to run.” Many of these positions do not require any prior experience. If anything, the student government thrives off of new ideas, perspectives, and enthusiasm to keep our progress moving at a meaningful pace.

I alluded to them above, but there are five bodies of student government—the Student Senate, the Executive Board, the Judicial Board, the Undergraduate Council, and the Graduate Council. The Student Senate is the chief legislative and policymaking body of the Union, and it consists of 26 elected members and is presided over by the elected grand marshal. The Executive Board is the chief financial body of the Union, and it is presided over by the elected president of the Union and consists of 15–20 appointed members. The Judicial Board is the chief judicial body, and it consists of an appointed chairman, six appointed regular members, and five appointed alternate members. The Undergraduate Council is presided over by the Undergraduate President and is made up of class councils for each undergraduate class, each of which have elected and appointed opportunities. Finally, the Graduate Council consists of the five elected graduate senators (who also sit on the Student Senate) and six representatives, and it is presided over by the appointed Graduate Council President.

So, with this information, please give your involvement some consideration. At the very least, please get out and vote during Grand Marshal Week in April. If you are interested in running, be sure to attend a candidate information session, read the handbook at, and contact Elections Commission Chairperson Caleb Caraway ’19 if you have any further questions at!

And, of course, if you have any questions, suggestions, concerns, or ideas, please feel free to reach out to me at!