My responsibilities as President of the Union

By Justin Etzine January 23, 2019

The hustle and bustle of the semester seems to have already kicked into full swing, and feet of snow seem to not be slowing it down! With all the excitement of getting back into a routine, I thought I’d share some of the key elements of serving as president of the union. Alongside the grand marshal, the PU serves as one of the five officers of the union and handles a number of aspects pertaining to the Rensselaer Union. There is the financial portion, the club affairs portion, and the facilities portion, which all tie into the role of chairing Executive Board meetings.

The PU serves as the chairperson for the Rensselaer Union Executive Board, which entails leading each weekly meeting, coordinating the agenda by scheduling presentations and business, and ensuring that all aspects run as smoothly and openly as possible. Many of our club presidents run their own meetings, and I believe this task holds similarity to those roles, except for maybe a little more parliamentary procedure than most would want at their average meeting. Additionally, I meet weekly with the Union staff members—especially our Business Administrator Martha McElligott—prior to each Executive Board meeting to review any proposals for policy and procedure compliance and discuss any upcoming business items. Grand Marshall Stef Warner and I also meet with Director of the Union Charlie Potts weekly to discuss happenings in our respective bodies of Student Government and to explore possible project ideas for the betterment of our Union.

The financial aspect involves two regular tasks: working with Executive Board Representatives to ensure club items conform to our policies while still providing the maximum benefit possible to each group and hearing requests for reallocations or additional funding that fall below $500. The PU can approve the latter as long as the requested programs have previously been approved by the Executive Board, which helps prevent the overcrowding of small proposals during Executive Board meetings. Of course, clubs can appeal the PU’s decision to the Executive Board.

The club affairs aspect ties into the financial potion, but it also involves meeting with clubs, alongside their Executive Board Representatives, their Student Activities Resource Person, and occasionally the Club Operations Committee. This involves discussing club priorities, interests, and future plans with them, and some clubs also call upon the PU to assist in mediating conflicts and finding middle grounds when issues arise.

The facilities aspect looks to the future, as alluded to earlier, and developing ideas and plans for the Union to improve in the years to come. This can certainly feel odd at times, as I will have graduated long before these ideas would come to the Executive Board and achieve implementation if supported. Even so, I still try to put the best interests of my peers—both present and future—first by thinking, “If I were still here, would I find this beneficial?”

All of these aspects are underpinned by the interpersonal, which is possibly the most important part of the role. Though finding compromise may be difficult, it is important for the PU to set aside his personal opinions and pursue the option that aligns best with student interests and student opinions. As I alluded to throughout the article, meetings are frequent but vital, as the face-to-face interactions provide the best audience for getting to business.

This may seem like a lot, but it often feels quick and easy because of how enjoyable the work can be. There have certainly been weeks where I have wondered where the days had gone (and realized I am already due for another Derby article). But, given it all, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.