President of the Union: Yaseen Mahmoud

By The Polytechnic Editorial Board March 22, 2021

The Polytechnic endorses Yaseen Mahmoud ’22 for president of the Union. Although he is running uncontested, his work in Student Government over the past three years reflects the dedication to student advocacy that we believe is required of the president of the Union.

Mahmoud has served as a club financial advisor, Class of 2022 representative, Business Operations Committee vice chairperson, and vice president for the Board Operations Committee. We believe that his experience working on the Executive Board and with Rensselaer administrators prepares him to serve the interests of clubs and the student body.

While he was serving as Business Operations Committee vice chair, Mahmoud responded to a complaint regarding the lack of menstrual hygiene products in the bathrooms by purchasing pads and tampons out of pocket to place in bins in all three women’s bathrooms in the Union.

When asked by The Polytechnic, Mahmoud said that if he could only do one thing during his term, it would be uplifting clubs that have suffered as a result of the pandemic. He plans to keep track of clubs and their membership counts such that, if they fall below a critical level, the E-Board will step in to offer help. Mahmoud said “it should be on the Executive Board members to [reach] out to clubs and [say], ‘what do you guys need help with?’” While the threshold would depend on the functions of the particular club, he would encourage clubs to reach out when they feel their membership is suffering. The Poly thinks this is a great idea, as most clubs are facing lower membership levels due to the pandemic. However, we have concerns about how critical membership levels will be defined for over 200 clubs in the Union and the feasibility of board members keeping up with current membership levels.

One of Mahmoud’s long-term goals is to hold both student leaders and administrators accountable for their actions. When asked to elaborate, he described plans to meet weekly with a roster of administrators to improve communication between students and administrators, such as Vice President of Student Life Peter Konwerski; Dean of Students Travis Apgar; and Executive Director of the Health Center Dr. Leslie Lawrence.

Mahmoud added that he plans to email the student body on a monthly basis with updates on what the Executive Board and Student Government as a whole are working on. He also hopes to hold himself accountable—Mahmoud expresses a willingness to learn from others and ask for feedback, describing that he wants to use a comment box. “Just because I’m in charge doesn’t mean I know everything,” said Mahmoud. “What do you guys like about my leadership? What do you not like? What works? What doesn’t? … and then go from there,” he said.

Mahmoud is the third PU candidate in a row to run uncontested, which he believes is mostly due to a “lack of interest in Student Government.” To address this, he plans to incorporate the rest of the student body through more cohesive marketing, including updating the social media guide for the Union. The Poly believes that is a step in the right direction but notes that a more concrete plan may be needed to sufficiently increase student body engagement.

Mahmoud is currently running alongside Grand Marshal candidate Colleen Corrigan ’21, but he made it clear that no matter who wins, he is ready to work with them.

Earlier this semester, Mahmoud was removed from his position as vice president of Board Operations due to disagreements between him and other Executive Board members on how to approach administrators on issues through social media. In an interview with The Polytechnic last month, Mahmoud said that after he made a post about freshmen not getting food during a snowstorm on the Facebook group Overheard at RPI Online University, he made a comment “kind of relating students going hungry to hazing, which is poorly worded and just … not a great comment … so I deleted the comment later on.” During his candidate interview, Mahmoud explained that his removal was a learning experience, teaching him to walk the “fine line” between advocating with students and effectively working with administrators.

However, we have reservations about Mahmoud’s stance on making the annual Union budgeting process public. When we asked him for his thoughts about making budgeting public, Mahmoud said that he does not think this would be appropriate: “I think it can be kind of embarrassing for Union administrators or … off-putting if students know exactly how much money they’re making … It can make them uncomfortable, and I don’t think that’s really something that’s necessary.” The Poly disagrees—we believe that the budgeting process should be transparent to allow for all students to know exactly where their Activity Fee is going.

We have confidence that Mahmoud will serve the Rensselaer community well as the next president of the Union. Despite a few shortcomings, he has demonstrated passion and initiative in the past; if he can address them, we believe that he has the makings of a great president of the Union.