Catherine Philipps for President of the Union

By The Polytechnic Editorial Board March 17, 2024

The Polytechnic endorses Cat Philipps ’24, ’25G for President of the Union. Philipps’ contribution to Student Government over the past four years has proven her dedication to the Union and student advancement, making her the ideal candidate to serve again as president.

Philipps is a Student Government Executive Board member and currently serving as PU. She is also a member of the Society of Women Engineers, Engineering Ambassadors, Vice President of the Biomedical Engineering Society, and a former member of the Club Operations Committee for the E-Board.

While serving as PU, Philipps has helped clubs gain official recognition and funding, such as RPI Code Red. During this time in office, she’s noticed clubs often come to the E-board unprepared or uninformed of how to pursue their organization’s needs. Travel budgets, in particular, have been a recent issue, with many clubs coming to the E-Board right before their trips. Philipps pinpoints this as a communication issue and wants to take active steps to expand the resources going out to clubs and their Student Activities Resource Person in the future.

When The Polytechnic asked how she plans on better marketing the E-Board’s work, Philipps replied, “The Union marketing team recently started a weekly email where clubs can submit any flyers they have for events happening,” rather than posting on the weekly bulletin board. When asked to expand on communication with students, Philipps stated that she believes that many students are not aware of what Student Government does, so she wants to publicize meetings by sending Union-wide emails at the beginning of the semester and updating the archive of student government motions accessible to students. This would include a list of when the E-Board and Senate meet and a rough description of what to expect at their respective meetings. She also emphasized that communication between student government branches and administration is of great importance to her campaign. In her efforts to improve it, she’s been attending the administration’s student leader meetings and is optimistic about forming a stronger relationship with them in the future.

Another of Philipps’ concerns is the lack of training E-Board members receive upon their appointment. Although there are some structures and resources already accessible to board members, much of the learning is done on the job. This, Philipps noted, decreases the effectiveness of the E-Board. One idea she proposed to begin combating this issue was training E-Board members on an example budget before they begin dealing with actual budgeting motions. Philipps also mentioned creating a cheat-sheet of the most important rules for E-Board members to know.

A key issue for this election season is increasing the revenue of the Union. There has been an ongoing debate over the status of certain Union businesses not paying rent, despite their popularity with students. Philipps, who admitted to not knowing the particulars of the rent situation between the Institute and these businesses, was unable to give The Polytechnic an answer on what may happen in the future given the recent removal of Ben & Jerry’s from the Union space. She did emphasize, however, that the reason some of these businesses have been able to stay so long is the amount of traffic they generate from students, and that there would be significant upset if they were removed from the Union.

Indeed, Philipps has the credentials and ambition to be a successful PU for another term. However, as noted by Philipps in her interview, there has been an ongoing lack of communication between the student government, administration, and the student body at large. While the E-Board does have liaisons for both Undergraduate and Graduate Council, as well as the Senate, connection between branches of student government is still lacking. Philipps also intends to focus on the relationship between the E-Board and clubs on campus. When asked about the biggest issue facing RPI students today, Philipps noted that students are often hesitant to interact with the E-board in order to start or fund clubs they are passionate about. Despite her awareness of the issue, The Polytechnic has concerns regarding the vague nature of her plans to strengthen this relationship, and wonders what role the E-Board will play in garnering more student involvement in on-campus activities. Philipps mentioned, in regards to clubs at RPI, that making them seem more welcoming will be her main focus in increasing participation, but expressed fewer ideas regarding how she will ensure that clubs are actively recruiting. The Polytechnic believes that Philipps will make strides towards achieving this goal throughout her term.

Philipps is enthusiastic about taking on the responsibility of PU and has already begun formulating some plans she’d like to put in place. The Polytechnic wishes her luck and believes in the strong, compassionate leader she’s already shown herself to be.