Ben Viner for Grand Marshal

By The Polytechnic Editorial Board March 19, 2023

The Polytechnic endorses Ben Viner ’24 for Grand Marshal. With goals to improve campus resources, expand the work of senate committees and increase communication between the student government, student body, and administration, Viner outlined several key ideas he had for the Student Senate.

One of Viner’s primary goals was increasing the communication between the administration and students. By inviting members of the administration to events such as Senate meetings, committee meetings, and activities, Viner hopes to increase “transparency and accountability in upper-level campus decision making.” For example, Viner said that the administration was unaware of the excess costs of classes such as purchasing textbooks and practical class materials in addition to tuition. Viner presented a potential solution presented was an exchange program similar to that in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences where students could borrow parts kits and other necessities.

Viner also spoke to the improving student-administration relations over the past semester giving the example of students who have assessments on religious holidays to the administration's attention and the system for these observances has since improved. Viner hopes to bring problems like this to the administration’s attention by increasing admin participation in student government events and increasing the communication between the student body and administrative staff on campus.

Additionally, Viner spoke to expand communications between student government and the student body. Viner stated he does not want to only poster around campus or post to social media since that can be easily ignored; instead, he wants to turn the Senate into a more action-based organization that has a greater presence in the student body. He added “if people see other people, they’re more willing to engage, rather than looking at a poster or looking at an Instagram post.” Viner did not explain exactly what this communication would look like, but emphasized that he wanted to make the Senate a more committee-centric body.

Over the last year, the Senate has struggled with membership retention due to several members resigning or being impeached. Viner acknowledged this as a problem and went on to say that more communication would lead to more involvement in the Senate. He also stated that it is not easy to navigate student government’s structure and if students knew more about current projects, they would engage more. Viner, however, did not elaborate as to what this type of communication would look like.

One of the steps Viner hopes to increase sustainability on campus, like composting food in dining halls, by working with the Troy community. While Cait Bennett ’23G identified composting in the dining halls as one of her short term goals in her candidate profile in 2021, Viner hopes to expand these practices and make the student body more aware of these efforts. Viner also mentioned that a large limitation is that, being a small school, RPI needs industrial level external facilities to start composting and becoming more sustainable. As a result, these practices could grow to involve local Troy businesses as sustainability efforts on campus expand. While students are aware of some of the local events in downtown Troy, Viner aims to build relations with the surrounding community to make the student body more aware of all the resources available to them.

Viner was also a proponent of implementing more hands-on learning into more lecture-based course material. Stating that this was an idea originating from the School of HASS, Viner pointed out how this more practical learning style could help students gain more career related experience that would benefit them in the long run.

When asked what the biggest issue facing the student body was, Viner struggled to come up with an answer. He eventually stated that handbook changes were a major issue, adding “I didn’t really know what the student handbook expected from us before.” Viner also said that “there are a lot of things that happen in a lot of student groups that might conflict with the handbook… like postering.” However, it is unclear how much of an issue handbook changes really are to the student body.

Overall, Viner has great ideas, though he lacks specific details on how he would accomplish them. Despite this, The Polytechnic feels that Viner has passion for being Grand Marshal and his plan to make the Senate more action oriented through committees are indicative of a good candidate. Viner certainly has big shoes to fill, but The Polytechnic trusts Viner to put his best foot forward.