Graduate Council endorsements, explanation of proposed amendment

By the Graduate Council April 4, 2018

Necessity of Amendment II

As the primary voice of the graduate student body, the Graduate Council would like to clarify the purpose and impact of Amendment II, which will be up for vote this Thursday. This amendment is the result of months of close collaboration with undergraduate student leaders, and this fact is corroborated by the Senate vote of 18-0 in favor, with one abstention. The GM and PU candidates are unanimous in their support for this amendment, and their full statements are provided at the end of this article.

Over the past year, we have seen a repeated need for provisional committees within the Graduate Council to handle issues as they arise, particularly in response to changes in the regulatory landscape in the United States which have material impacts on graduate student life. These issues, including taxation, stipends, health insurance coverage, and employment opportunities for international students, affect graduate students- including their spouses and children- very differently than undergraduates.

Addressing these issues often requires small teams with formally delegated responsibilities, and is ill-suited to standing committees. This is just one example of why we feel Amendment II is crucial for the Graduate Council moving forward. It will also allow the Graduate Council to conduct changes to its bylaws during summer sessions to address time-sensitive issues when the Student Senate is out of session. Furthermore, it permits the Graduate Council to adapt its bylaws to develop committees for event programming and multicultural initiatives as the graduate population expands over the coming years.

The foremost priority of the Graduate Council is to advocate for RPI’s graduate students and voice their priorities. These topics range from professional development and student-advisor relationships to stipend and health insurance among countless others, and directly determine graduate students’ quality of life and their academic careers. We work closely with the RPI Union and RPI administration on all of the above, and have seen the tangible benefits of maintaining these strong relationships.

One point we would like to make explicit: The Graduate Council has been and will always be a part of the Union, and as such, is subservient to the Student Senate. The Senate can call into question any Graduate Council bylaw changes, address concerns by passing legislation, or call for a Judicial Board hearing. Amendment II does not change this. The amendment further mandates timely presentation of all bylaw changes to the Senate, so that any and all concerns can be addressed. We hope that all students, undergraduate and graduate students alike, will vote YES for both Amendment I and Amendment II.

GM and PU Candidate Endorsements 

The Graduate Council had the chance with to meet and interview each of the GM and PU candidates, and this year we are decidedly impressed by the field of candidates as a whole.

While we would normally endorse a single GM candidate, we find ourselves unable because both candidates have demonstrated remarkable passion for issues on campus and strong experience in student governance. Moreover, both Nancy Bush and Stefanie Warner have been active in their support for graduate affairs, and their platforms indicate that we would look forward to working with both in the coming term. As the Student Government Communications Chair, Ms. Warner has been proactive in seeking graduate student input, and has included an impressive recognition of graduate student needs in her platform. At the same time, Ms. Bush has extensive Senate experience and has consistently supported initiatives in the Student Senate benefiting graduate students. In addition, as the Facilities and Services Chair, Ms. Bush offered novel proposals on improving sustainability at RPI that have resonated with members of the graduate student body.

The candidates for PU in this election are no less impressive than those for GM. While working with the Graduate Council as GM this year, Justin has demonstrated his poise in leadership and readiness to support graduate student proposals. His exemplary administrative ability has given us confidence that he would be a capable PU. However, Ida’s pragmatic approach to using the E-Board to resolve the issues facing graduate students is both convincing and heartening. During her years on the E-board, Ida has acquired a staggeringly intricate knowledge of Union operations which showed during our interview with her. This, accompanied by her keen appreciation of the differences between graduate and undergraduate student life, have led us to recommend Ida for President of the Union.

The Graduate Council would like to emphasize our confidence that all four of these student leaders are qualified and capable of filling the positions they are seeking. While they may differ in their strengths, we firmly believe that whoever is elected will faithfully serve the entire student body.

Lastly, we would like to thank The Poly for allowing us to publish our views on their platform, and hope that we have answered their concerns regarding Amendment II.


The 2017-2018 RPI Graduate Council

GM and PU Candidate Support for Amendment II

Ida Etemadi: “I stand by the Senate’s decision to approve this amendment as they are representatives of the student body. In the same way, the graduate council represents the interests of the graduate student body, the group affected by graduate student dues. I trust the expertise of the student leaders on the Graduate Council and the year of development that was put into these amendments. Although The Poly is a significant Union Recognized organization, it is important to note that the Editorial Board making these statements is made up of ten undergraduate students. I believe the Graduate Council will maintain integrity with or without an approval vote from the Senate.”

Justin Etzine: “I initially expressed my concerns with the amendment because of the belief that both the Undergraduate and Graduate councils should be expected to follow the same expectations. However, after the addition of a timely presentation requirement, I expressed support of the amendment’s passage if it provides a meaningful benefit to the Graduate Council. I stand by this support.”

Nancy Bush: “I understand hesitations to this amendment, but would like to give a different perspective. The Graduate Council Bylaws only have the ability to affect major process changes within its own body. Changes made within the GC Bylaws do not and really cannot have large effects on the Union or the student body as a whole just based off of the nature of them. I believe this change would allow the GC to work with slightly more autonomy and if any changes do arise that seem questionable; the Senate will be able to send the bylaw changes to the Judicial Board for review.“

Stefanie Warner: “It is evident that the Graduate Council functions much differently than the other four bodies of governance, therefore I believe that this amendment will enable efficient Graduate Council processes in the immediate future. It is my hope that over the next year, the Student Senate and the Graduate Council will reform policies to better represent and advocate for the graduate student population. I firmly stand by my initial position as a strong proponent of this amendment.