Top Hat

Embracing principles of shared governance

By Advaith Narayan February 11, 2021

Welcome back!

As critical as I am about certain issues facing the student body, it is important that I recognize the successes in recent happenings as well. I want to start off my Top Hats for this semester on a positive note by recognizing some incredible collaborations—and dare I say instances of embracing the principles of shared governance—that have led to positive changes for the student body and the Rensselaer community. I also want to touch on a mental health initiative that I am very much looking forward to this semester. So let’s dive right in!

You may recall seeing a notice of changes and additions to the Student Handbook right before the semester began. One addition was the Student Policy on Acts of Bias, Discriminatory Behavior, and Harassment. This policy was a direct result of the collaboration between the Rensselaer Black and LatinX coalition (RBLX) and Institute administrators. The conversations about such a policy began last summer when RBLX released a list of administrative requests. What started as a request to add acts of bias and discrimination to the grounds for discplinary action quickly transformed into an entire new section of the handbook which detailsacts of bias and discriminatory behavior, provides both RPI and third-party resources to address these issues, and outlines the judicial process for such violations.

Along with these additions, another set of changes were made to the Health Emergencies Statement. Members of the Senate and the Dean of Students worked to ensure that the Health Emergencies Statement was thorough and addressed all of the concerns of the student body, especially that of the graduate students. We wanted to ensure that a small violation wouldn’t cause a graduate student to lose their access to their lab and their research. The collaboration on this front led to a great result for the student body and set in place a system to have conversations and improve policies to everyone’s benefit.

This partnership is an example of what shared governance looks like, and I am incredibly proud of everyone, students and administrators alike, for embracing the principles of shared governance and producing an excellent set of policy revisions as a result. Open, honest, and constant communication between administrators and those affected by policies is exactly what shared governance is about!

Continuing with collaboration and shared governance in mind, I am currently working on a mental health initiative with several administrators and soon will include more students, staff, and faculty as well. The goal is to work together to write a plan to commit to tackling mental health in our RPI Community. I plan to start with a core group of student leaders, administrators, faculty, and staff, and then identify tasks for each group to work on to meet the end goal of improved mental health as a campus community. Addressing mental health was at the top of my priority list when I was elected as Grand Marshal so I am excited for this initiative to take off. I will certainly keep you all updated with any developments and progress on this project in the coming weeks and months. But until then, I am always happy to hear from you about your thoughts on what I wrote this week or anything else you have on your mind. Reach out to me anytime at and best of luck for the Spring semester ahead!