Joint Top Hat & Derby

Addressing transparency issues in StuGov

By Justin Etzine and Matthew Rand March 7, 2018

Hello everyone! We are joining you this week to talk together about how the Senate and the Executive Board plan to address issues regarding transparency and accountability in our organizations. You spoke, and we listened. We are committed to ensuring that every member of the Union has the ability to access student government records and can participate in their Union’s funding and decision-making processes.

Recently, the Institute began a new partnership with Box to provide document storage and retention solutions for RPI. Across the Institute, more and more groups are utilizing the system because of the ability to publicly share documents and knowledge between members of the RPI community. In an effort to support this, the Student Government will be migrating to the Box service and will make all of our publicly available documents and policies accessible to the RPI community! Fortunately, with the hard work of the Union Systems Administrators and our Union Administrative Staff, Union clubs and organizations are also eligible for space on Box; if your organization is interested, be sure to reach out to the Union Systems Administrators at to learn more!

This move comes because Flagship Docs, which used to house all of these documents, has been experiencing difficulties over recent years. Now, we will be able to utilize a publicly-accessible document archive that will allow all public documents to be viewed by anyone with a valid RCS ID. On top of just the meeting minutes and motions of the Student Senate and the Executive Board, we hope to develop the system to a point where all of the branches of student government can house their documents as well, bringing back the age of Flagship. That way public reports, such as the Union Annual Report, and similar documents can be conveniently located in a single place.

With the Division of the Chief Information Office pursuing an implementation of the Microsoft Office 365 program, we are also interested in ensuring our digital public record remains open and accessible regardless of where or how it is provided to students.

At the time of its release, Flagship Docs was very innovative in providing a public archive of documents, but solutions like Box require less work to customize and maintain. By migrating from a self-maintained system to a professional service, free to all RPI students, the demand on Student Government to physically maintain the system comes down to simply posting their meeting minutes and documentation. Additionally, with a complete overhaul to the Student Government website at executed by Justin in collaboration with the Web Technologies Group and the Union Systems Administrators. With an expected launch of summer 2018, all the access points will be linked in the site to conveniently allow members of the community to go from the site to the relevant documentation with the click of a button.

Now, I (Matt) know that the Executive Board has been criticized as of late for a lack of transparency. While I would disagree that the Board is not transparent, I understand where the criticisms have come from. I also understand that this may seem like too little, too late. However, in an effort to resolve my lapse in judgment as president of the Union, not only is the Executive Board pursuing this migration to Box, but we are also working to revise and repeal sections of our Special Rules of Order that have unintentionally infringed on the rights of our students. Please realize that we made the choice based on feedback we had received from clubs about not wanting to be filmed, and while we had no intention of infringing, in our effort to ensure the best environment possible for our clubs, we erred. As such, our policies will be adjusted accordingly. The Executive Board will still not sponsor a livestream, as we still believe it is not conducive for clubs based on the feedback we have received, but we will not infringe on any student’s right to do so. I would like to apologize for this lapse in judgment and hope these amends can restore the student body’s faith in the Executive Board.

On the Senate side, I (Justin) will work to ensure continued accountability in our operations and meetings for the remainder of my term. Furthermore, I intend to emphasize accountability and openness in transitioning the next grand marshal into office. Finally, I am thrilled to see what comes of future discussions between the bodies of Student Government on accountability and operational efficiency.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this joint address on transparency and the public availability of our documentation. As always, we do our best to be receptive to criticisms and listen to the RPI community. That being said, the best way to ensure we are properly representing our students is to come and talk to us, or to email us directly at and, respectively. We are always willing to talk to our students and address the concerns our students have. In a time rife with political tension, the last thing we need is to fight amongst ourselves. We will do everything in our power to ensure the Senate and the Executive Board function in an appropriate manner that best represents all of our students.