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I’ve been involved in student government since my freshman year and have dedicated my time at RPI to serving the student body. I am currently serving as Vice Grand Marshal and as an independent senator. During my time in the Senate, I have been involved in efforts to improve our campus, addressing issues that affect myself and my peers the most. I am running for Grand Marshal to lead the 51st Senate in continuing these efforts to make a lasting positive impact on our campus.

Mental Health

Students across the country face struggles with mental health, such as depression, anxiety, and heavy stress, and RPI is no exception. Unfortunately, while other universities prioritize services and resources to support students as they navigate their mental health, RPI administrators are frequently unresponsive to the issues RPI students face on a daily basis. In an environment as rigorous and stressful as ours, students are experiencing more stress and pressure to succeed than ever, and students deserve resources that prioritize their mental health throughout their time at RPI.

This past year, the Counseling Center has made excellent improvements to their services, adapting to accommodate students better with the addition of drop-in counseling, the increase in staff, the establishment of dedicated support for the Arch, and the change in appointment structure. However, support for students enduring or recovering from traumatic experiences still can be improved.

I will ensure that our campus provides ample resources and opportunities for students to seek help regarding their mental health concerns as well as address the sources of these concerns for RPI students.

As Grand Marshal, I will:

  • Push for the Institute to take proactive, instead of only reactionary, approaches to addressing student mental health concerns.
    • Work with the Student Senate Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) to increase academic and professional support.
    • Improve academic support on campus through ALAC and continued faculty relationships.
  • Advocate for administrators to explore ways of supporting students through times of unrest or trauma instead of alienating them by forcing them onto medical leaves.
  • Work with the Undergraduate Council, the Graduate Council, student groups like Active Minds, and Greek organizations to create mental health related programming to aid in fostering campus mental well-being.
  • Work with the Counseling Center to conduct a yearly survey of the student body to gauge mental wellness and commit to improving mental health on our campus.

Student Rights

For its first century of existence, our Student Union was uniquely student-run. In recent years, there have been a myriad of issues and changes that have taken place, resulting in the Union losing its independence.

An example can be seen in the Union’s FY 2020 Budget: despite an established process and historical precedent, the administration had made changes to the Union’s budget without student support. When the Union Annual Report (UAR) was brought to the Senate, I objected to the consideration of the UAR because of the sudden and unjust deviation from a fair and established practice, taking the decision making process away from students.

You may also recall the changes made to the student handbook this past fall without input from the student body. These changes infringe on protest and free speech rights on campus, requiring express permission to distribute any materials on campus and only allowing recognized student organizations to do so.

One of the resulting effects of the aforementioned changes is the lack of an environment on campus where students feel empowered to make decisions and gain real-world experience. This leads to students who are less prepared to deal with real world issues, let alone change the world.

As Grand Marshal, I will:

  • Push for the restoration of student self-governance in the Rensselaer Union by showing administrators the negative impact on learning and development resulting from the erosion of student self-governance across campus.
  • Strive for continuous and clear demonstration that the administration prioritizes student success over anything else.
  • Advocate for reverting the AP Credit transfer limit to 32 credits for incoming students from the recently-reduced limit of 20 credits.
  • Encourage open dialogues with Renew Rensselaer, an alumni-led group pushing for reforms to campus and current student rights issues at RPI, to develop a comprehensive plan of action to restore the student experience at RPI.
  • Advocate for two “recent alumni” positions on the Board of Trustees, elected by the recent alumni and exempted from fundraising requirements, as identified as a best practice by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB).
  • Advocate for the right of students of legal age to consume alcohol in a safe manner.

The Arch

Following the first full implementation this past summer, the Arch is now required for all students. I participated in the Arch, and though I did everything in my power to make the best of the experience, it still fell far short of being the experience I had hoped to have. This is due to the lack of communication and resources readily available on campus, despite my best efforts to gain access to said resources. I think that if done for the right reasons and with the right support, the Arch can be a valuable experience to some students. However, making the program mandatory for every student regardless of post-RPI career, academic, or other goals can be detrimental to the growth and overall experience of some students.

As Grand Marshal, I will:

  • Push for industry and academic connections with the Institute to support each and every student who is going through Arch.
  • Work regularly with the Faculty Senate through the Student Senate’s Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) and Arch Task Force (ATF) to continue to advocate on behalf of students to improve resources for those who would benefit and choose to participate in the Arch.
  • Continue advocacy for mental health support during the very stressful summer semester.
  • Continue supporting AAC and ATF in their efforts in improving academic during the summer semester and junior year as well as professional support in securing semester away opportunities.
  • Work with the ATF to tackle stressors pertaining to the Arch summer semester and professional support for the Arch away semester.
    • Improve professional support for students seeking Arch away semester opportunities through regular communication with the CCPD informing them of shortfalls and improvements that can be made.
    • Continue surveying students through the summer via the ATF to identify specific points of improvements for the summer semester.

Greek Life

Contrasting the wave of incidents at a national scale, Greek Life at RPI remains a bastion for ideal Greek systems. While no community will ever be perfect, the value Greek Life provides its members, our campus, and our community is undeniable. Unfortunately, stances towards Greek Life by the RPI Administration have not fairly accounted for the benefits Greek Life provides to RPI.

Over the past two decades, the administration has taken action against the Greek system based on skewed statistics and accusatory rhetoric. While one hopes that these actions are taken with the best intentions, the repeated targeting of Greek Life has had a negative effect on the students, both members and non-members alike. Though I am not a member of a Greek organization, I pledge to stand with Greek Life throughout my term as Grand Marshal.

As Grand Marshal, I will:

  • Push for the Good Samaritan Policy to be rewritten in order to provide both clarity in the policy and real protections to students and organizations, rather than allowing for the continuation of a policy that targets Greek students.
  • Advocate for a timely hiring of a Greek dean to assist Greek houses and their leaders in effectively serving the members of the Greek community.
  • Work closely with the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council to identify and address problems with the Arch and transitioning leadership roles through Arch away semesters.
  • Advocate for Greek students to be allowed to live in their Greek houses during the Arch summer semester.
  • Ensure student views drive the implementation of the Greek Life Task Force recommendations, ensuring our Greek organizations are not subject to harsh restrictions.
  • Work to create an open and accessible communication channel between the Administration and Greek organizations.
  • Advocate for a fair alcohol policy which addresses infringements not with a blanket policy having the potential of long term detriment to chapters, but rather on a case-by-case basis.

Communication

Recent campus issues such as the coronavirus policy hastily enacted to the discriminatory detriment of multicultural clubs and the overwhelming campus concern over the New York State peace officer bill have, yet again, displayed the severe lack of communication between the administration and the students. Although the communications coming from the administration is not the responsibility of the Grand Marshal or student leaders at large, advocating for open communication pipelines will have a profound impact on improving relations and building trust.

Communication between Student Government and the student body has greatly improved over the past few years, although there is always room for improvement. One problem we are working to solve is how we can keep the student body informed about the work we are doing on a regular and reasonable basis.

As Grand Marshal, I will:

  • Dedicate more of my time to meeting with students and student groups than meeting with Administrators. Building trust and a genuine relationship with students can have a far-reaching impact, leading to more beneficial projects and a better represented student body.
  • Strive for regular and meaningful communication to the student body to inform students of what is being done in student government.
  • Continue the work I am doing as Vice Grand Marshal in aiding the Student Government Communications Committee in experimenting through various media, be it social media, physical posters around campus, newsletters, or morning mail.
  • Implement tools such as a Q&A platform on the Student Government website for students to easily reach their representatives, ask questions and raise concerns to the various bodies of Student Government.
  • Increase the social media presence of Student Government through collaborations with the Union’s social media accounts and support the Union’s social media returning to the E-Board’s supervision.


Sustainability

RPI is a technical school which boasts world class, paradigm-shifting work yet there is little being done on campus to improve sustainability. Apart from student efforts and existing advocacy groups like the Student Sustainability Task Force (SSTF), there is no visible administration driven effort to improve RPI’s campus sustainability. Compared to most of RPI’s peer and aspirant institutions, RPI’s sustainability efforts are severely lacking.

As Grand Marshal, I will:

  • Work with the President of the Union and the Executive Board to promote sustainable projects and practices in and around the Union where reasonable by creating a sustainability plan for the Union-operated spaces on campus.
  • Push for sustainability guidelines developed by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) to be implemented in future campus facility renovations and new construction efforts.
  • Push for commitment from the RPI administration to work towards a more sustainable campus, reducing energy consumption, and improving campus waste management using creative and modern technologies.
  • Advocate for more effective recycling and the implementation of a composting program in dining halls on campus.
  • Continue supporting student groups like the SSTF and the Student Senate’s Facilities and Services Committee (FSC) in their efforts to improve campus sustainability.