Colleen Corrigan for President of the Union

By The Polytechnic Editorial Board March 22, 2022

The Polytechnic endorses Colleen Corrigan ’21 for President of the Union. Corrigan’s plans to reinstate 24/7 Union hours, include students in the hiring process of Union administrators, bring back full budgets for clubs, and provide additional resources for clubs show her will and ability to make a stronger Union.

One clear plan Corrigan has is to increase the student representation in the hiring process of new Union administrators. Currently, the E-Board is invited to hiring interviews but has little direct input in the hiring process. She further explained that these invitations usually come at short notice and near the end of the process, so most E-Board members are unable to attend these meetings. Corrigan intends on working with Union administrators to include E-Board members earlier in this process, citing current Grand Marshal Cait Bennett’s ’22 involvement in the hiring of Dr. Martin Schmidt ’81, RPI’s 19th President, as a successful example. The Polytechnic thinks this idea will lay down the framework for greater student influence within the Union.

Club budgets have been frozen for the past two years due to budget restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; Corrigan plans to move forward from these frozen budgets as restrictions ease. Ideally, the change will provide clubs with more flexibility in acquiring funds necessary for their service to the student body by bringing back reserve funds for clubs.

To address club difficulties with recruitment and retention due to COVID-19, Corrigan hopes to hire external facilitators—vetted by her for their compatibility with RPI’s culture—to host workshops on recruitment and marketing. Corrigan cited RPI’s previous hiring of “Phired Up” by Greek organizations as an example. These newly hired facilitators could be an extreme help to clubs that are struggling with recruitment and are a solution the E-Board has the financial power to implement.

The Polytechnic also appreciates Corrigan’s step-by-step plans to implement training programs to help E-Board members facilitate informed discussions with their clubs. First, she would like to bring the Archer Center to train clubs on leadership techniques. She also plans to have every representative go through their clubs’ budgets and create a master calendar encompassing all their activities, so that they can reach out to their clubs before important deadlines and events. These changes are direct upgrades on top of the current training.

The incoming arrival of a new Institute president has revived discussion of a student-run Union, something Corrigan wants to take steps to bring back. The Union has not been student-run since 2018.

Corrigan has voiced her plan to bring back 24-hour Union access by allowing the Union to be open beyond the presence of Union staff. Union staff is currently required to ensure students’ adherence to COVID-19 policies. Having the Union open 24 hours would greatly benefit the student body as there are no places open for late-night studying.

In an interview with The Polytechnic, Corrigan remarked that the Executive Board should not be making financial decisions on behalf of all RPI clubs. Instead, budgeting should be transparent enough such that clubs are part of the process. “We’re just representing [the clubs],” says Corrigan, “I really want to make sure we’re opening up communication.”

In order to facilitate more direct communication between clubs and the Executive Board, Corrigan outlined the following action items: clarify the budgeting process, update the student government websites, and diversify the E-Board’s communication platforms with the student body.

However, The Polytechnic has concerns about Corrigan’s willingness to change the transparency of club budgeting and Union Annual Report meetings. The UAR is a document that details the Union’s budget for the year and directly impacts how much money can be spent on clubs, facilities, and Union staff, and determines the cost of the Activity Fee. The administrators resist transparency on the UAR because the Union’s budgeting rolls over to the Institute's budget. Students ought to know where their money goes, so The Polytechnic hopes Corrigan works with administration to gain as much transparency as possible.

Corrigan aims to increase interaction with all clubs in an informal atmosphere to understand their needs by visiting them personally or delegating somebody to do this service. This is a great way to make talking to the President of the Union more approachable. However, The Poly looks forward to seeing what plans Corrigan uses for this type of communication.

The Polytechnic is concerned with Corrigan’s minimal experience in club outreach and on the E-Board. However, she has had four years of experience with the Student Senate and acted as the Vice President of Board Operations this past year. Corrigan worked directly with the current President of the Union, so she has a strong understanding of the role and requirements of PU. Despite her limited experience in the E-Board, The Poly hopes Corrigan will use the communication strategies she has built over time to effectively build relations with various clubs and student organizations.

Although running uncontested, Corrigan can excel as PU through her plans to involve the E-Board in hiring Union administrators and bring back traditional club budgeting. Going forward, we hope to see Corrigan put her money where her mouth is: bringing back 24/7 access to the Union, increasing club outreach, sitting down to actually meet with all club representatives, and streamlining E-Board training.