Grand Marshal: Cait Bennett

By The Polytechnic Editorial Board March 22, 2021

The Polytechnic endorses Cait Bennett ’22 for Grand Marshal. Bennett currently serves as the chairperson of the Facilities and Services Committee and as an independent senator. Her goals for the next year demonstrate her commitment to supporting the student body and advocating for student well-being.

Over the past year as FSC chair, Bennett has managed to increase the size of the committee from ten to over 40 members, making it the largest Senate committee this year. Not only does this demonstrate her dedication to her committee, but it also shows that she has the capability to invest in relationships and grow organizations. During her candidate interview, Bennett expressed her plan to grow the Senate in the same way saying “I can be the strongest and most outspoken GM in the world … I could really fight for people, but at the end of the day, what is even more important than that is that the folks… around me feel comfortable doing the same.” The Poly believes that Bennett’s experience as FSC chair will translate well for the growth and development of the Student Senate.

Bennett brings new ideas to the table and demonstrates an understanding of both what is feasible during a term and how to execute her plans. For instance, her plan for a Summer Career Fair during Rensselaer’s Arch program is a refreshing idea to help Arch students that can be realistically implemented.

Another part of Bennett’s platform is to include students on the Board of Trustees, which is something that past GM candidates have tried to accomplish. When The Poly asked her how she would go about bringing back students on the Board of Trustees, she said that it would happen in “small, but steady steps in the right direction.” Bennett then pointed out one issue that could be solved in her term: increasing the amount of time that the GM and PU are given to speak on student issues in front of the Board of Trustees’ Student Life Committee.

“Currently, the GM and PU are invited to one [of three annual meetings] of the Student Life Committee and they have about five minutes to talk about whatever they want to talk about, and that is not enough time to go over a whole year of what’s most important to the student body. So step one is increasing that time,” said Bennett. She continued to explain that the next steps would be to ask to attend two meetings per year, then request to attend all three meetings the next year, and ultimately ask for a permanent seat on the committee. This step-by-step approach impressed The Poly and demonstrated Bennett’s ability to not only think beyond her term but also break down long-term projects into manageable steps. Her track record of achieving her goals and training other student leaders to do the same is commendable and gives us hope for the future of student leadership at Rensselaer.

Over the past year, Bennett championed the Senate motion for the Institute to freeze tuition for fiscal year 2021–2022 and make the Institute’s COVID-19 budget transparent to the Rensselaer community with the long-term goal of implementing an Institute-wide report equivalent to the Union Annual Report. The Poly supports Bennett’s stance on budgetary transparency, as we believe that students have a right to know where their tuition is going. Bennett has set a personal goal of working towards Institute budgetary transparency; while issues like the Arch or the hiring of counselors can be delegated to the appropriate committee, there is no Senate committee dedicated to implementing Institute budgetary transparency. When asked how she would convince the Institute to release their financial data, Bennett reasoned that, when asked for input by administrators, students would be able to use this data to directly tell the Institute where they want their money spent and what changes ought to be made. While the goal of Institute budgetary transparency is a lofty objective, her experience working with administrators makes it seem more realistic than it initially appears.

She has also pushed for a motion that called for the Institute to expand criteria for remote learning requests for this semester to be approved. When asked about the effectiveness of this motion which calls for a change without specific action items attached, Bennet explained that passing the motion put pressure on administrators, which led to the expansion of criteria for remote request approvals.

However, we still worry that the Senate will rely too much on motions during her term. We feel Bennett can learn from Vice Grand Marshal Colleen Corrigan ’21 in this regard, as one aspect of Corrigan’s GM campaign that we appreciated was her desire to shift Senate culture away from motions and toward direct action.

Both Grand Marshal candidates agree that the Institute’s representation of Greek life does not reflect Greek values and culture at RPI. Bennett wants to sit down with administrators like Vice President for Student Life Peter Konwerski and Dean of Students Travis Apgar to ensure that the Institute and students agree on the meaning and implications of the Good Samaritan Policy. However, it is unclear how exactly she intends to clarify the Good Samaritan Policy in favor of Greek organizations. Additionally, she believes it is “vital” for the Senate to support Greek life as she has seen its positive impacts on students.

The Poly is disappointed that neither Grand Marshal candidate this year has a platform that adequately addresses the concerns of underrepresented students. During her candidate interview, Bennett said that she would focus on issues regarding diversity within the Multicultural Leadership Council in the Executive Board, but we feel this is not enough. We hope that our student leaders will take these issues more seriously for the betterment of the Rensselaer community.

Ultimately, The Poly believes that Bennett is the more capable candidate for the role of Grand Marshal. She has a far more thorough platform than her opponent—Corrigan does not have detailed plans, even for the Greek community that she is a part of. Based on Bennett’s accomplishments in Student Government so far, we believe she is more likely to bring her plans to fruition, and her stronger relationship with administrators provides an undeniable advantage in Rensselaer’s post-student-run Union climate. Bennett can offer the foresight and planning that the Student Government needs on a changing campus.