2024 Plan: Looking back to look forward

Rensselaer continues trend of revolutionary advancements in higher education.

Rensselaer and its constituent departments and organizations are taking the 190th anniversary of the founding of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to consider and celebrate their past and plan for their future. The Institute has a long, colorful history worth reflecting upon for inspiration for its future direction. From the start, Rensselaer was a leading institution in higher education, employing revolutionary learning methods. It has been central to many important advances in a multitude of fields, and continues to be a leader in research in the 21st century. With the 200th anniversary of Rensselaer’s founding upcoming and drawing upon the successes of The Rensselaer Plan, President Shirley Ann Jackson announced The 2024 Plan in 2012 as a road map to the continued future success of Rensselaer.

Stephen van Rensselaer III served as lieutenant governor of New York, owned 1,200 square miles of eastern New York State, and was one of the richest people in history, with his estate valued at $68 billion in 2014 USD. The generally agreed upon founding of Rensselaer was marked by a letter from van Rensselaer to the Rev. Dr. Samuel Blatchford, a trustee of Union College. He asked Blatchford to assume the presidency of the Rensselaer School, which at the time was merely an idea for a school devoted to science. The letter also included appointments of the first Board of Trustees and Amos Eaton as the first senior professor, who effectively had the duties of a chief operations officer. Over the following months, the Board developed an unconventional protocol for instruction; students spent six hours daily performing experiments, then giving their own lectures, rather than listening to seminars from professors. The school opened on January 3, 1825 at the Old Bank Place in the then north end of Troy.

In the summer of 1830, the unique Rensselaer School Flotilla was held, in which the students and faculty embarked on towed canal boats for a 10 week cruise from Troy, up the Erie Canal, to Lake Erie, and back. During the unique educational experience, students and faculty engaged in lecture, conversation, and debate and studied the plants, animals, geology, “engineers in actual operation,” and the laboring of agriculturalists they encountered along their path, practicing methods of collecting field specimens. The topics of instruction of the Flotilla gives insight into the focuses of education at Rensselaer at the time: “Mineralogy, Geology, Botany, Zoology, Chemistry, Experimental Philosophy, and Practical Mathematics, particularly Land Surveying, Harbor Surveying, and Engineering.”

This event exemplifies the cutting edge, experimental education methods employed at Rensselaer in its early years. Continuing this trend, Rensselaer awarded the first four civil engineering degrees granted in the United States to members of the Class of 1835, launching a dynasty of the greatest US civil engineers of the time. Rensselaer occupied a rather unusual niche during this time as a purely graduate school; most of its students during the era already possessed degrees from top universities at the time of their admission. In 1832, the Rensselaer School changed its name to the Rensselaer Institute and moved to the Van der Heyden Mansion, where they would remain for only seven years.

The man behind this developmental period in the Institute’s history was Eaton, personal friend and life-long collaborator of van Rensselaer, and namesake of Amos Eaton Hall. Eaton professed the disciplines of botany, geology, mineralogy, and surveying. In his administrative roles, Eaton rebelled against the standard liberal arts style of education which prevailed at the time, consisting solely of lecture and recitation. His vision for higher education incorporated creativity, individual thought, and learning by experimentation and observation, focusing on the scientific method as the primary mode of learning. At earlier commencements, students presented a final demonstration lecture to the assembly, the first of its kind in American education, an example of Eaton’s vision. van Rensselaer died in 1839 and Eaton in 1842; this pair of losses dealt a great blow to the Institute and its continued development of revolutionary education methods, representing the end of an era in Rensselaer history.

In 1850, recently appointed Senior Professor Benjamin Franklin Greene, Class of 1842, implemented a radical transformation of the Institute after a lengthy tour of European technical schools. Greene transformed Rensselaer from a one- to two-year graduate school into a three-year, undergraduate-focused university incorporating concepts from its early years and Greene’s analysis of European polytechnic schools. The plan was for division of the Institute into six largely independent schools, some of which still exist today as the Schools of Engineering, Architecture, and Science. The ambitious plan required $1–2 million dollars of financing, a very large sum at the time, and the development of an architecture curriculum (for which there had never been a curriculum for at any school). The School of Architecture, however, wasn’t founded until 1929, and it’s primary residence, completed in 1932, was named the Greene Building to recognize his visionary plan ahead of his time. The plan also involved moving to a 32-acre site at the base of the hill which now contains the Approach. However, Greene abruptly left the Institute in 1859, before the plan could be completed, due to conflicts with the board of trustees. He then started the Glenmore School of Engineers in Troy, his own similar and competing institute, which failed after three years.

The 1860s saw further transformation of Rensselaer into a more recognizable form by today’s students. In 1861, the name was changed from Rensselaer Institute to its final form, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This was accompanied by the addition of a fourth year to the curriculum. The next year, the Great Fire of 1862 destroyed the majority of the City of Troy, including the entirety of RPI’s property. Talks of moving to New York City and merging with Columbia University cast great doubt over the future of the Institute. The decision to rebuild was made, and classes were held in the premises of the short-lived Troy University until construction of the Main Building on 8th Street was completed in 1864.

The 1860s also saw other changes to make RPI more recognizable. The Transit and The Polytechnic published for the first times in 1865 and 1869, respectively. Also, the Winslow Chemical Laboratory opened in 1866 next to the future location of the Approach on 8th Street, the oldest building on campus still actively in use.

Unique to RPI is the position of Grand Marshal, created in 1866 to honor an exalted member of the student body and honorable soldier returning from battle in the Civil War—Major Albert Metcalf Harper, Class of 1867, and a brother of Delta Phi. Harper was presented with a ceremonial sword and recognized as the highest-ranking leader of the student body. In its early years, the position was largely ceremonial, with duties primarily consisting of representing the student body to the administration and the community. The yearly election of GMs were marked with extravagant celebration, including dancing and a student parade, often lasting through the night.

Around this time, fraternities made their first appearance on campus. The first on campus was Theta Delta Chi in 1853. This was followed by the founding of the local fraternity Sigma Delta as a rival fraternity to Theta Delta Chi in 1859. Neither organizations exist on campus today. In 1864, the Lambda Chapter of the Delta Phi Fraternity was chartered at Rensselaer, one of two oldest currently active fraternities on campus. In 1864, the Alpha Chapter of the Theta Xi Fraternity was formed by eight former members of Sigma Delta, which would eventually become a 60,000 member-strong national organization of over 50 chapters. Theta Xi is still active today at Rensselaer, located at the corners of Sherry Road and Sage Avenue. Palmer C. Ricketts, Class of 1875, an extremely influential figure in RPI’s history, was one of Theta Xi’s early brothers.

The next major era of Rensselaer’s existence was brought about by Ricketts upon his appointment to director of the institute in 1892. In 1901, he was named president of the institute, where he would serve until his death in office in December 1934. During this long period of sustained growth, Ricketts oversaw the construction of ten major academic buildings and 29 dormitory buildings. Those buildings are recognizable today as the bulk of the northern part of campus, which were constructed in the brick colonial revival architectural styles, featuring copper roofs. At the time of assuming directorship, RPI consisted of five buildings between 8th Street and 10th Street. The Main Building and Winslow Building on 8th Street housed the majority of academic buildings. Next to the academic buildings was a gymnasium, the minor Ranken House (acting as a recitation room), and the Proudfit Observatory, which was infrequently used due to the lack of study of astronomy on campus at the time.

Ricketts found a substantial boost to his ability to expand campus through Margaret Olivia Sage, widow of railroad magnate and Trustee of the Institute Russell Sage. After his death in 1906, M. Sage became the wealthiest woman in the US with a net worth of $70 million. She immediately devoted a large portion of this fund toward promoting social and educational causes. Apart from providing the seed capital for the Russell Sage Colleges, M. Sage donated over $1 million for the construction of the Russell Sage Laboratory to house the new electrical and mechanical engineering departments, which was completed in 1909. Additionally, she donated $100,000 for the Russell Sage II Dining Hall, which was completed in 1916, to honor her nephew Russell Sage, Jr., Class of 1859.

Ricketts soon decided to continue the trend of RPI’s movement up to the hill toward its current location. At the last centennial celebration in 1924, the citizens of Troy raised the funds to construct the Troy Building, which housed the Civil Engineering department. The Class of 1887 donated $150,000 for the construction of the ’87 Gymnasium, built to replace the aging gymnasium down the hill. Other buildings constructed during this period include the Carnegie Building in 1906, built through a $125,000 donation by steel industry magnate Andrew Carnegie; the Approach staircase in 1907 by the City of Troy; Quadrangle Dormitories in 1916; Amos Eaton Hall in 1928; the Greene Building in 1931; North Hall and E-Complex Dormitories in 1932; and finally the Ricketts Building in 1935. Originally planned to be named in honor of van Rensselaer, the building name switched to honor Ricketts after his death in 1934. Also, in 1932, the Rensselaer Union Clubhouse was constructed, which is more familiarly known today as Lally Hall. Tragically, in 1904, two consecutive fires destroyed the Main Building and severely damaged the Winslow Building, cementing Rensselaer’s move up the hill.

Also during Rickett’s presidency, Rensselaer’s finances greatly improved from less than $500,000 to over $11 million, especially in part due to the actions of John M. Lockhart, a son of a founder of Standard Oil; he donated over $5 million under the pseudonym “Builder.” The number of degree programs offered increased from two to 12, including the addition of mechanical, electrical, metallurgical, aeronautical, and industrial engineering, plus biology, physics, and architecture. Enrollment increased from 200 to 1,900. Also, Rensselaer returned to the graduate education in this period. Rickett’s legacy was that of a period of great growth of the Institute.

Furious construction of buildings did not cease for long after Rickett’s death. To accommodate the increase of enrollment from 1,604 in 1945 to 3,987 five years later, a “tin town” of 50 surplus metal military barracks were installed to temporarily house students until the freshman hill dormitories were completed in 1953 and added to in 1958. This increase in flux of students following the conclusion of World War II was caused by the passing of post-war legislation encouraging higher education, especially the GI Bill, and the abundance of returning soldiers in search of opportunity.

The 1960s saw Rensselaer develop into a leader in new fields. The Gaerttner Linear Accelerator’s completion in 1961 catapulted the Physics Department to the forefront of the field of particle physics, allowing cutting edge research into the fundamental building blocks of matter. Evidence of this can still be seen in the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center, where a poster about research into exotic baryons still hangs alongside posters of molecular biology research. The Science Center built for $3 million and was dedicated on October 21, 1961, the same date of the dedication of the linear accelerator. The event was recognized by President of the United States John F. Kennedy in a message congratulating the Institute. Kennedy had been working closely with RPI graduate and future President of the Institute George M. Low ‘48 on the U.S. space program.

Low’s importance in the early development of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the subsequent landing of Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon can not be understated. The memorial museum in the George M. Low Center for Industrial Innovation, which completed in 1987, details Low’s accomplishments. Low was intimately involved in the design of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo Projects and even in the planning of NASA itself as an organization. Becoming deputy administrator of NASA in December 1969, Low was instrumental in developing the vision of NASA after the first moon landing, including spearheading the Space Shuttle, Skylab, and Apollo-Soyuz Test Projects and continuing the manned study of the moon through subsequent moon landings.

After retiring from NASA in 1976, Low became President of the Institute until his death in 1984. Under his leadership, the Jonsson Engineering Center was constructed, which would later become the centerpiece of the first administrative vision The 2024 Plan is a part of, The Rensselaer 2000 Plan. The Alan Voorhees Computing Center opened in 1979, housing RPI’s mainframe computer of the time and contributing to the development of computing research at RPI, which would eventually include such achievements as the Advanced Multiprocessing Optimized System in 2014, the fastest supercomputer at a private university. The RPI incubator program was founded in 1980 with the rededication of the H-Building. The first of its kind sponsored by a university, the incubator program encouraged the growth of startup companies and the commercialization of Rensselaer-developed technologies. The presence of this program would bring a focus within the Lally School of Management on entrepreneurship, which would later launch the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship and offer the Technology Commercialization and Entrepreneurship master’s degree. This innovation by the Management School in leading management education mirrors the educational innovation of the early to mid 1800s by Rensselaer. Low tragically died while still president of the institute in 1984, a severe and unexpected loss to Rensselaer.

The next era in Rensselaer’s history was marked by President Shirley Ann Jackson’s assumption of the presidency of the institute in 1999. Entering office at the end of the term defined by The Rensselaer 2000 Plan, Jackson quickly set about evaluating the Institute and subsequently unveiled The Rensselaer Plan, a strategic vision to direct the Institute through the first decade of the 21st century. The Plan focused on improving the student experience, especially educational experience, through a variety of initiatives: increasing scientific and technological entrepreneurship, increasing diversity in a variety of areas, and revitalizing various campus communities.

New undergraduate programs have been created recently. These include new majors such as Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology, Cognitive Science, Electronic Arts, Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences, Information Technology and Web Science, Sustainability Studies, and Design, Innovation, and Society. Many of these majors are interdisciplinary and bring science, technology, arts, humanities, and social sciences together in order to create Rensselaer alumni with breadth and depth of knowledge. Programs in conjunction with other colleges have been launched to further expand the possibilities for RPI students in fields such as medicine and law. Accelerated and co-terminal degree programs additionally provide Rensselaer students with more options, based on their ambitions. RPI has also instituted the First-Year Experience and Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond programs to assist first-year students in their adjustment to RPI.

The Rensselaer Plan 2024 makes many commitments and thrusts to improve undergraduate and graduate education at RPI. Among these commitments are expanding Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students to include graduate students, creating an undergraduate honors program focused on research, and expanding the funding research. Research, especially interdisciplinary research, is a special focus of the Plan, because it is incredibly important for educating students and enhancing RPI’s reputation. Research provides undergraduate students with the skills and professional development needed in both graduate school and in the professional world. Another commitment is to increase diversity among students, faculty, and staff—not just ethnic diversity, but also gender, intellectual, and geographical diversity. Opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation to expand are also planned.

Another plan is to “Embed curricular and co-curricular activities designed to foster a culture of creativity, discovery, and innovation” and bring RPI’s strengths of science and technology to other fields. CLASS will be increased to include addressing global challenges and embracing diversity and inclusion. Academic and co-curricular opportunities, including leadership, will be expanded, too. Graduate CLASS will include establishing “a Graduate Center to provide advocacy, support, and guidance for graduate students, and their families, throughout their tenure at Rensselaer.”

Five thrusts to expand research are being instituted: nanotechnology, energy, computer science and IT, biotechnology, and media. There are additionally five critical research umbrellas: Beyond the Internet: Digital Meets Reality; Engineering Natural and Man-made Networks; CyberInfrastructure, Cyber-Security, and Technology-Assisted Decision Making; Data Analytics; Infrastructural Resilience, Sustainability, and Stewardship.

With the Rensselaer Plan 2024, RPI commits to drawing on its legacy and building up RPI to be even more of a world-class university. Research, resources for students to help them succeed at Rensselaer and beyond, and interdisciplinary academics are among the various commitments planned. Rensselaer’s colorful and celebrated past, along with The Plan and its structure for implementation, indicates that yet more greatness is to come.

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Staff Editorial: End-of-semester preparations

Can you believe that the fall semester is almost over? The Poly’s staff wishes everyone the best of luck with all final exams, projects, and assignments, and we hope you have an enjoyable Winter Break! If you are struggling with exam preparation, please don’t hesitate to take advantage of the Advising & Learning Assistance Center and the Student Health Center’s Counseling Services. These services are available to ensure every student can perform as well as possible, and we think they are a great resource for all students.

In your residences, please make sure to leave the heaters on in your rooms to prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting, make sure all windows and doors are locked, close all blinds, clean all refrigerators and remove all perishable foods, and make sure all valuables are out of sight from doors and windows. Historically, the Rensselaer Apartment Housing Projects have seen several burglaries by non-students when doors are left unlocked over Winter Break. So, to prevent this from happening over this break, we strongly recommend that RAHPs residents, along with the rest of the Rensselaer community, lock all doors and windows of their apartments and rooms.

To all those graduating, congratulations! We will miss seeing you around campus. To everyone coming back next semester, enjoy your time off and we look forward to seeing you in the spring!

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Big Hero 6 revamps the animated superhero

DISNEY’S BIG HERO 6 BRINGS back an old plot wih a new twist. The film introduces a lovable lead character in Baymax, a health care robot, that allows a movie with stunning visuals but a predictable plot to be more than mediocre.

Following the latest wave of animated and superhero films comes the hybrid we’ve all dreamed of: Disney’s Big Hero 6. With the animated superhero genre eclipsed by Pixar’s The Incredibles, and with a robot starring as a main character, you can’t help but draw comparisons to another Pixar favorite, WALL-E. So, my question going into the film was, how does this film define itself? This is a question I can only answer by looking at the film as a whole.

In terms of story, Big Hero 6 is not entirely original; it’s a very simplified adaptation of the comic of the same name by Marvel. When I say simplified, I mean just a few characters and concepts remain. A third of the original team that makes up the comic group Big Hero 6 are replaced, probably due to funny copyright laws pertaining to the Silver Samurai and Sunfire who exist in Sony’s X-Men universe. This change is actually pretty minimal compared to the more drastic ones, which honestly vastly improve the story. Rather than being a rag tag group of Japanese nationals that the government puts together, the Big Hero 6 we see on film is composed of a diverse cast of characters with distinct personalities that anyone can appreciate.

In terms of story, the film starts strong with the main character, 14 year old child prodigy Hiro Hamada, voiced by Ryan Potter, showing off his skills in underground robot fights. His older brother and mentor Tadashi then convinces him to apply to his university to advance his learning, and shows off his medical robot, Baymax, voiced by Scott Adsit. Inspired by this event, Hiro shows off his new inventions, mind controlled nanobots, at a function at the college in order to be recognized as a potential student. His invention blows away the crowd, but unfortunately, a fire consumes the building, killing Tadashi and leading Hiro to believe his nanobots are destroyed. The crux of the film rests on the villain Yokkai who wears a kabuki mask and uses what appears to be Hiro’s nanobots for nefarious purposes. Along with Baymax and his new companions made up of Tadashi’s classmates that creates a team of heroes to stop Yokkai.

As far as superhero stories go, this one seems to be pretty much run of the mill; traumatic death leads to boy attempting to find killer, slowly becomes wiser/gets more super friends, stops big baddy and continues super hero-ing. What really sets this story apart from others is the immersive world Disney created. The film takes place in San Fransokyo, San Francisco with a distinctive Japanese flair. This can be seen throughout the film, such as traditional Japanese building styles being blended into the iconic Bay Area hills including many Japanizations of San Francisco sites, like the Golden Gate Bridge made to look like two huge torii. My favorite scene of the movie is when two of the main characters fly through a cluster of beautifully painted airborne wind turbines. This movie is certainly Disney’s most visually stunning production, with a complete city created from a great reference, but with incredible cohesion, and a blended aesthetic that I never imagined.

Something else I found difficult to believe was a standout, original, robot character like Baymax. From inception, in both the production of the film and in the actual story, Baymax is meant to be a goofy and “huggable” robot. There are no hanging wires or sharp edges; Baymax is basically just a big balloon, which makes his transition to robot hero even better. His inner conflict of being a creation meant to aid, and then having to fight is something, I found incredibly compelling. He’s a charming character, and the perfect antithesis to Hiro’s rash and selfish attitude at times.

Overall, I don’t know if Big Hero 6 stands side to side with the likes of The Incredibles or Wall-E; the film has flaws in terms of story that just left me bored during parts of the movie when I should be thrilled, sad, or in any way empathizing with Hiro, which I just couldn’t do. It’s somewhat predictable and formulaic, but what raises it up from mediocrity is its standout visuals and main character Baymax. While Disney Animation may not have created something entirely different, its inspired use of comic and Japanese concepts and art raised my opinion of the piece in a huge way.

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Women’s hockey defeats visiting RIT

FRESHMAN FORWARD WHITNEY RENN SKATES toward the Connecticut net in a win over UConn in October (file photo). Renn tallied two assists against RIT in RPI’s 4-1 win over the Tigers last Friday.

The women’s ice hockey team took on the Tigers of Rochester Institute of Technology on Friday, November 28 at the Houston Field House. The struggling Engineers came into the game with a 1-10-2 record.

The game started with a faceoff win by RPI freshman forward Shayna Tomlinson.

Lindsay Grigg scored the Tigers’ first and only goal of the night on a rebound from a shot by Mackenzie Stone, 2:23 into the first period. RIT’s lead was short-lived, as the Engineers scored three unanswered goals in the first period alone. A slashing penalty on senior forward and captain Ali Svoboda at 7:04 resulted in a Tigers power play. Although RIT had two good scoring opportunities, they failed to capitalize on the power play and the score remained 1-0.

Tomlinson tied the game 1-1 at 9:54 on a rebound from a blocked shot by sophomore forward Laura Horwood. Svoboda and Horwood were credited with assists. Freshman forward Marisa Raspa scored her second goal of the season, assisted by freshman forward Whitney Renn and senior defenseman Kathryn Schilter, at 16:20 to put RPI up 2-1. A holding penalty on Carly Payerl at 16:50 resulted in a power play for RPI; another RIT penalty at 18:18 on Jess Paton for tripping gave the Engineers a two-player advantage. RPI scored on its only shot during the power play as its four-player advantage ended. The power play goal, scored by Svoboda and assisted by Horwood and Renn, gave the Engineers a 3-1 lead going into the first intermission.

After a faceoff win by Grigg for the Tigers to begin the second period, the Engineers quickly gained control of the puck and got off four quick shots all saved by RIT goaltendevr Brooke Stoddart. Despite eight shot attempts by RIT and 11 by RPI, the second period was scoreless and the Engineers entered the third with a two-point lead.

Although no team obviously controlled the first half of the period, RPI easily dominated the second half of the period out-shooting RIT 11-5 in the third. The Tigers managed to hold off RPI for most of the period, until after numerous unanswered shots on the Tigers’ goal, a shot by senior forward and captain Taylor Mahoney found the net with 2:20 left in the game. This final goal increased RPI’s lead to 4-1.

With Friday’s win, the women’s hockey team improved its record to 2-10-2. Goaltender Kelly O’Brien stopped 26 of 27 shots for a save percentage of .96, and Stoddart save 23 of 27 shots for a save percentage of .85.

With one win against RIT under its belt, the team looked to further improve its record on Saturday, November 29 in the second game of its home series but came up short. RPI allowed one goal each period and failed to score any of its own, resulting in a final score of 0-3. The Engineers ended the weekend with a 2-11-2 record. RPI hosts the Bears of Brown University on Friday, December 5, and the Yale University Bulldogs Saturday, December 6.

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Registrar releasing online wait list program

THE OPENING GRAPHIC TO WELCOME users to the Student information system where students can register for classes utilizing the wait list program.

Continuing an experiment from the last three semesters, the Office of the Registrar is moving forward to further test a fully automated wait list for a limited selection of courses for registration for the Spring 2015 semester. On the Student Information System, students can now add themselves to an online wait list for closed sections of a few test courses. When a spot becomes available, they will have 48 hours to register for the class before they lose their reserved seat and the next wait listed student is notified.

Previous to this new initiative, departments would keep their own physical paper wait list for popular courses and communicate with the assistant registrar to coordinate usage of the wait list. To appear on the wait list, students had to meet with the department administrator and request a wait list spot. Once a spot opened, the administrator would have to contact the student. This was a large hassle for students, causing few to make use of the old wait list system. This system also caused the administrators to take on unnecessary work. As a result, a staff member of the School of Engineering, who dealt with the most wait list requests, recommended that the Office of the Registrar develop an automated, online wait list system on SIS. The new system is being developed by Manager of Customer Service Michael Bayer, Business Support Analyst Michelle Henry, Assistant Registrar Michael Conroy, and Registrar Sharon Kunkel.

The system has been in development for three semesters. The first phase of implementation consisted of students registering on SIS to be on a waitlist for closed sections. However, the waitlist still had to be manually administered once a seat became available. As a result, it still wasn’t sustainable on a large scale. The results were promising, though, as more students made use of the transitional system than previously, and there was less paperwork for departments to deal with; both students and departments benefited. For this semester, the manual administration aspect has been eliminated; it’s a fully automated system. Students can now receive a wait list number by attempting to register for a closed course. Once a seat becomes available, an email is sent to the student with the lowest number on the list. Testing this semester is limited to 15 sections of mostly engineering courses, including ENGR 2050 Introduction to Engineering Design, plus ARTS 1200 Basic Drawing.

Thus far, the system has exceeded expectations. The biggest test will come when sophomore engineers begin registering for Introduction to Engineering Design, the bulk of the sections currently available in the new system. The main obstacle to the successful test of this implementation has been informing students of its existence. The system may be fine-tuned for next semester, possibly by reducing the 48-hour reservation period and offering a cross-section wait list. It is foreseen that another issue may be with students not checking emails, especially during break. Another issue is whether to retain the authorization form as well as the wait list system; some may view the combination as unfair. However, there has been no negative feedback yet on this subject.

There’s still some confusion for students dealing with the system, mostly related to unfamiliarity with the new system. Some students haven’t been sure if they’re on the wait list. Others have encountered issues in which they depend on becoming registered for the class from the wait list; the wait list isn’t a guarantee to become registered, and some don’t understand this. Otherwise, feedback has been very positive from faculty, staff, and students. The Office of the Registrar is extremely interested in feedback from student, staff, and faculty experiences with the system from this semester, as well as suggestions for improvement. Responses can be directed to Assistant Registrar Michael Conroy at conrom@rpi.edu.

If all goes well this round of registration, students can expect to see the final version of the new wait list system on SIS for Fall 2015 registration next semester for all courses. The Office of the Registrar also has another project under development: Proxy. Proxy will be a feature on SIS that will enable students to allow anyone (family, friends, etc.) access to a modified version of their SIS account. Students can determine which parts of SIS they wish each person to have access to (e.g. disallowing parents from viewing grades). This system would be similar to the current eBill system in that its purpose would be to allow parents access to relevant information, such as emergency contact information, laptop order form, viewing diploma holds, tax forms, parking permits, and financial aid information. This would allow students to better coordinate management of these items with their parents. This system is currently under development, with no release date yet determined.

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Editorial Corner

Poly’ s recent past recalled

EIC’s advice for future editors, hope for future paper

I’ve always been told to leave things better than when I found them. When I joined the senior board of The Polytechnic, we weren’t in a very good spot. As I explained in my previous Editorial Corner, the staff was small, and advertising money was lacking. But what I think was most significant was the alarming knowledge gap between the staff then, Fall 2013, and the staff of, say, Fall 2010.

The paper consists of at least 10 different parts, which all need each other to function. Advertising provides funds for the entire paper, and the business manager tracks those funds. Without them, the paper will not be able to print. No money means no paper. They’re both not difficult jobs, but they are demanding. They require knowledge of the advertising rates, ties with the Union Administration Office, and social capability. It sounds simple, but if the advertising section didn’t have training from the previous advertising director, the job becomes orders of magnitude harder.

In Fall 2010, the staff was approximately 15 people strong. During that time, if a section was lacking, someone else was there to fill in temporarily. Both the know-how and the manpower were there. However, in Fall 2013, with more than half the knowledge and people leaving, it was a nightmare putting the paper together. Many useful tips and guidance on how to layout sections or to process for managing a section were not passed down.

When I was thrust into being news editor, I learned many tricks and managing abilities on my own. It was a struggle every Tuesday night to, at the same time, figure out how to use InDesign and layout the section. But now I know how awful it was suffering like that, and I never wish it upon future Poly members. Therefore, since then, I’ve worked hard to build up the Poly staff and build a Poly culture that’s a fun environment for everyone, so that people will want to join, so that there are more people to pass the knowledge down to, and so that this newspaper is better off for RPI.

The Poly staff is now almost 20 people. We have a handful of bright, new people that are willing to learn how to layout, report on events, and edit. And we do have the older members, myself included, to provide guidance and direct support on how to run the paper.

We, as the paper, are on an upward trend. Since last year, we’ve more than doubled the size of our staff and relayed a substantial amount of layout and general information to the next generation of Poly people. In the future, be prepared for better coverage and better style from all of us on the Poly.

To those new on staff, good luck!

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Newest Hunger Games leaves reviewer wanting more

KATNISS EVERDEEN RETURNS to the silver screen in Part 1 of the final Hunger Games movies. The first of the two installments suffered due to a missing half, leaving the audience with major cliff hangers.

While filled with fleshed out characters and absolutely enthralling plot points, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 falls victim to the “Part 1 of 2” problem that is all-too-common in today’s movie scene. An unnecessary split into two films hinders the movie’s ability to provide a full conclusive story. The audience is left with literally half of a movie, with no resolution or character growth at the end. Despite the unneeded split, however, the film does a wonderful job further pushing its fleshed out characters and unique plot elements.

One of the many things I enjoyed about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 was the exceptional dynamic between Peeta and Katniss. At the end of the previous Hunger Games movie, Peeta was captured by The Capital. Throughout this movie, Peeta is interviewed on live T.V. by Caesar Flickerman, the face of The Hunger Games within The Capital. Caesar elicits responses from Peeta that shun the districts’ rebellion and generally are not friendly to the districts’ cause. This brings up many interesting questions for both the characters within the story and for the audience. Does Peeta truly mean these things he’s saying? Is he just saying it to save his skin? Is he brainwashed? Katniss believes that Peeta is not at fault and that The Capital is forcing him to say these things. Despite her optimism, many people within the rebellion see his words as “pro-capital,” and want him gone. As a viewer, I was genuinely intrigued to see how this situation would conclude.

Another element of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 that I particularly enjoyed was the internal struggle of Katniss throughout the film. She has become the figurehead of a war she wants no part in. Katniss just wants to run away from it all and let those who are capable handle it. However, through an unprecedented series of events, she has become what no leader can force themselves to be: a symbol of hope. People from all around Panem look to Katniss as the one who shot the arrow, the one who can stop The Capital, and the one who can unite the districts. Katniss is forced to go along with this role because the only way to save Peeta from The Capital is with the assistance of District 13. The only way District 13 will agree to help her is if she agrees to be their figurehead. Watching Katniss struggle through this dilemma was a unique viewing experience and a pleasure to watch throughout the film.

My criticisms of this film are minute but numerous. As stated before, there was no reason to split the film into two parts. It was just a marketing scheme for extra box office earnings. Another problem that I noticed was that Katniss didn’t seem to do anything during this film. The entire extent of her action was shooting one arrow to take down two airplanes. How am I supposed to root for a protagonist that appears to sit back and let the people around her do the actual work? The last problem I had with this film was the entire “in-action” dynamic they pushed within the first half of the film especially. Their theory was that Katniss needs to be put into danger in order to get good propoganda footage. However, this just came off as camera awkward and forced. They essentially went out into the districts and caused the destruction of a hospital just to get Katniss heated. Although I understand the general premise of the idea, I can’t help but think that they went a bit too far for some extra footage. In the end, it seems like an unnecessary plot point that they included in order to stretch for a second film.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie experience of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1. Some fatal flaws held the movie back as a whole, but many interesting elements kept me interested from start to finish. Despite this movie’s imperfections, I am definitely excited for the final movie of this franchise.

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Women’s bball splits a pair

Defeats Sage, then loses close game against Keene

Women’s basketball held two home games during the past week. On Tuesday, November 24, RPI women’s basketball hosted The Sage Colleges in a neighbor college showdown. In the first half, the Engineers separated themselves from the Gators, taking a 12-point lead at the half. Then, in the second half the Engineers held their ground, answering every Gator rally with one of their own. The final score was Rensselaer 76, Sage 62.

After the Gators closed the gap to 50-46 with 9:30 remaining, the Engineers’ defense took over, forcing several turnovers and long, low-percentage shots from Sage. Junior forward Kristen Van Gilst made two big shots to put RPI back up by eight. Then buckets by sophomore guard Jackie Sortor and junior guard Ellen Boucher expanded the lead to thirteen. Still the game hung in the balance. The Engineers turned to junior guard Ashley Clough, who scored the next nine points in a row to help finish off the Gators.

The Engineers were led to their 14-point victory by Clough, who poured in a game-high 22 points, 16 of which came in the second half, and grabbed seven rebounds. Senior forward Amanda Lynch recorded her second double-double of the season, tallying 16 points and 10 rebounds.

For the Gators, junior forward Sara Tironi scored 16 points and added four rebounds. Senior guard Megan Bowman keyed the Sage offensive attack though, recording eight assists to go along with 13 points and six rebounds.

Then, on Tuesday, December 2, RPI hosted Keene State for a non-league matchup. In the first half, defense set the tone as both teams shot less than 30 percent from the field in the first half. 3-pointers by Boucher and senior guard Courtney Reynolds allowed the Engineers to take a 27-24 lead at the break.

In the second half, both teams took better advantage of their scoring opportunities. While RPI was a step ahead of the Owls in the first half, Keene State took over in the final 20 minutes. The Engineers struggled handling the ball, turning it over 11 times in the half. Keene State out-rebounded Rensselaer 24-17. With eight minutes remaining, forward Courtney Roberts scored to put the Owls by one. Despite a valiant effort from the home team, Keene held on and won by a final score of 61-57. Guard Stephanie D’ Annolfo recorded 14 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and eight steals to lead the Owls to victory. For the Engineers, Lynch led all scorers with 17 points. Clough and Boucher each tallied 10.

With the win, Keene State improves to 4-2 while RPI falls to 3-4 in defeat. The Engineers will be idle until December 29 and 30 when they will play two games at the Westfield State Holiday Tournament in Massachusetts.

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RPI working to Bio-engineer heparin in E. coli

A HEPARIN MOLECULE THAT WILL BE USED as an anticoagulant in medical procedures such as dialysis and surgeries.

The Bioengineered Heparin Project, led by Dr. Robert Linhardt, a professor here at RPI, is working to create a safe, controllable, and economically viable method of producing bioengineered heparin. Heparin is an endogenous, highly-sulfated glycosaminoglycan with the highest negative charge density of any known biological molecule, having an unclear biological function in humans. Pharmaceutically, it is used as an intravenous anticoagulant used in medical procedures, such as dialysis and surgeries, and as a coating on the inside of medical devices that contain blood, such as test tubes. Currently, the major sources of heparin are porcine intestine and bovine lung. It is difficult to control the quality of heparin obtained from these sources and this method of obtaining heparin is inefficient—only two doses can be extracted per animal. Worldwide demand is greater than 500 million doses per year. Heparin is one of the longest-used modern medicines still in widespread use, being used in the early development of modern surgery. The World Health Organization therefore lists heparin as one of the most important medicines needed to maintain a basic healthcare system, underlining the impact of success in this project having large global effects on medicine.

The Bioengineered Heparin Project was started in response to the Heparin Contamination Crisis in 2008. In 2008, there were reports of dialysis and cardiac surgery patients experiencing hyper-sensibility that caused the death of 81 people in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration determined contaminated heparin, sold by Scientific Protein Laboratories from Chinese slaughterhouses, to be the cause.

A goal of the Bioengineered Heparin Project is to create an alternative, more controllable source of heparin. The research group has been using Escherichia coli in heparin production for the bioengineering portion of their research. E. coli K5 produces N-acetyl heparosan, a precursor to heparin, that can be extracted and purified. Heparosan then undergoes a series of chemoenzymatic modification in vitro to make heparin.

This approach has been successful on a small-scale, but scaling up the production of heparin precursors is necessary for it to be produced at an industrial scale. In a collaborative project with Koffas lab, the E. coli K5 genome was sequenced and an algorithm to determine which genetic manipulations will result in the highest heparosan production ever constructed. Using E. coli K5 with genetic mutations for increased heparosan production is a viable option for producing bioengineered heparin because bacteria are inexpensive, grow quickly, and are easy to genetically engineer.

Metabolic engineering is being used to further increase anticoagulant heparin activity. Chinese hamster ovary cells were chosen for heparin production because they are capable of producing a related glycosaminoglycan, heparan sulfate. Enzymes necessary for anticoagulant heparin production were introduced to the CHO cell lines. Only a moderate increase in heparin activity was seen in these transfected cells. Enzymes essential for the biosynthesis of heparin were studied in mastocytoma cells. The results of this study helped the group bioengineer CHO cells with increased anticoagulant activity.

The project has faced a few challenges since its initiation in 2008. Its first five years were funded by the National Institute of Health. Before NIH funding was terminated, the Bioengineered Heparin Consortium, which receives funds from pharmaceutical companies, was started to help fund the project. According to Linhardt, another challenge is “getting through the valley of death.” Batches of the bioengineered heparin must be produced for clinical trials and the heparin must make it past clinical trials to be approved.

Working with a research group this large produces additional challenges. The group, now made up of about 20 people, once had roughly 40 staff members, including graduate students and undergraduate students. “A group that large is difficult to manage, supervise and fund,” Linhardt said. Although he is the most senior person in the group, Lindhardt has many experienced colleagues helping with the project. Linhardt explained, “Doctor Lingyun Li, Doctor Fuming Zhang, and Karen Coonrad are critical people in the group that help make it run. I’m just the conductor. Everyone else is good at playing the instruments. If it all works, we have a symphony.”

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Editorial Notebook

RPI’s sustainablility future

Environmental club leader recounts past, offers

My final semester has gone by ridiculously fast. It has been a time of good-byes, a time of finishing things I started, and a time of giving a last push to making RPI more sustainable. This article is printed on the last day I shall be a club officer of either EcoLogic or the Student Sustainability Task Force; I have held a club officer position of at least one of those two environmental organizations almost four years.

Through these positions, I have come to believe that Rensselaer should be the leader when it comes to sustainability. We are not there. Last year, I authored the Sustainability Report 2014, available at http://poly.rpi.edu/s/k0rgj. While I was unable to get all the information I would have liked, the results from what I found are disappointing compared to other colleges such as Cornell University. Environmental problems such as climate change and pollution are issues that my generation will have to deal with. We need to be able to acquire the skills necessary to fix these problems; to change the world. These are complex issues that require scientists, policy makers, engineers, social scientists, designers, and more to fix. And we were making progress.

Starting immediately after most of my first semester classes finished, I decided to get more involved in sustainability at RPI. I planned Vasudha’s first-ever “Vasudha Reunion,” became Secretary of EcoLogic, attended Power Shift 2011 with around 30 other RPI students, and helped out a little with the Resident Students Association’s EcoHall Challenge. It was an exciting time—we were accomplishing our projects and raising awareness. I saw this in each of the organizations I was involved in—and heard about how well SSTF was doing (I had class at the same time as their meetings).

I’m still not sure what happened. I’ve heard a thousand explanations for it. But the involvement of the members of the Classes of 2013, 2014, 2015, and even 2016 were far less involved than the classes preceding them and following them (pat yourselves on the back, Class of 2018 especially; so many of you are so incredibly motivated, you make me sorry to graduate). In fall of 2011, at around the same time as the low involvement was becoming apparent, former Chief of Staff and Associate Vice President for Policy and Planning Laban Coblentz left RPI. This had a huge impact on sustainability; Coblentz was SSTF’s point of contact with all of the administration. SSTF’s numbers subsequently dropped to near-zero.

For the last three years since Coblentz left, we have tried to continue on our own. We have been frustrated at the lack of progress we have been able to make. Students who are at an institution for four years cannot develop the same kind of contacts and trust that someone in a permanent administrative position can. They do not have the same knowledge of how RPI works as someone more permanent. Lastly, students do not have a lot of time—we have classes, other activities, and jobs. The combination makes it difficult for us to get important sustainability projects implemented.

I firmly believe that two things are needed to ensure that Rensselaer becomes more sustainable. First, SSTF needs a designated contact high up in the administration to meet with regularly and to help with projects. Second, I believe we need an Office of Sustainability. A permanent staff person working hard to accomplish goals to make RPI more sustainable would be incredibly helpful. Several students, perhaps work-study students, working out of the office would be incredibly useful. The Sustainability Clearinghouse, found at http://sustainability.rpi.edu, should be regularly updated and could be a valuable resource for recruiting students to Rensselaer who care about environmental issues.

Again, RPI has so much potential. We pride ourselves on our research and on being ahead of other colleges. But we really are far behind when it comes to sustainability. And we don’t have much time. 2014 is likely to be the warmest recorded year; each year these days, just about, is warmer globally than the previous ones. I do not see a separation between Rensselaer and sustainability; our motto is “Why not change the world?” and what better change is there to make than to solve our environmental crises?

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Dracula sinks teeth into RPI Playhouse

Fall play makes killing on the stage; entertains the audience with a chilling performance

JEREMY FELDMAN ’16 (LEFT) AND GARRISON JOHNSTON ’18 (RIGHT) PERFORM in the RPI Players’ fall production of Dracula .

On Saturday, November 22, I had the pleasure of watching the RPI Players perform Dracula. The play started out with Renfield (Christopher Urig), an inmate of an insane asylum, being fed a meal. Lucy (Jocelyn Griser ’16) and Mina (Taylor Turner ’16) were gossiping about men; Mina was engaged to Harker (Jeremy Feldman ’15) and Lucy was trying to figure out which of several men to choose from. Meanwhile, Harker was on a business visit to Count Dracula (Garrison Johnston ’18).

The play was set up with three separate scenes in the Playhouse. One scene would be lit up while the other two remained dark. One of these scenes showed Transylvania and Dracula’s castle; another showed the insane asylum; and the third showed Lucy’s house. Mina and Harker wrote letters back and forth, with Harker talking about his journeys. Harker’s letters eventually stopped, which understandably worried Mina.

One of the men Lucy was trying to decide between was the doctor who ran the insane asylum, Seward (Anton Lohner Piazza ’18). When Lucy was feeling ill, Seward visited her. One night Lucy ran off and Mina found her on a ledge. Lucy’s illness was starting to baffle Seward, so he called in Van Helsing (Reece Kearney ’15), who had trained Seward to be a doctor. Seward had saved Van Helsing’s life once. Seward was also becoming bothered with Renfield’s craziness; he was shouting in the night, calling “Master!” and appeared to be eating mice and other abnormal creatures. Renfield was also talking about Seward’s love for Lucy, or at least appeared to be. During these scenes, Urig conveyed emotion very well. He was shaking and otherwise appeared to be a crazed man.

Van Helsing assessed the situation, especially noting a cut on Lucy’s neck. She was given a blood transfusion. Van Helsing and Seward decided to move Lucy to the house near the insane asylum. Van Helsing was slightly mysterious about it, but decided to put garlic on the windows and gave Lucy a necklace of garlic.

Meanwhile, Mina had at last heard from her fiancé Harker. He was quite ill and in a hospital. Mina traveled to him and found him vastly different; he had clearly been through a traumatic experience. Harker gave Mina a notebook that detailed his journey. He was too scared to open it. Van Helsing convinced Mina to read the notebook. The scene shifted back to Dracula’s castle, with Harker meeting Dracula. Dracula behaved rather strangely, walking around Harker and looking like he wanted to eat Harker up. Harker stayed in the castle for several days. Dracula warned him not to go in certain areas.

A couple Vixen—undead women—scared Harker quite a bit. Harker also noticed a great deal of shoveling. He also could not remember the name of the property deed he had sold to Dracula; the name was burned out of his diary, too. All in all, it was a scary experience for him. Van Helsing became even more certain that vampires existed. At the same time, Seward found his dear Lucy dead, her garlic necklace on the floor. He was upset and went downstairs to the couch. To his surprise, Lucy came down and tried to kiss him. Van Helsing walked in and held up a cross to get Lucy to go away. He explained to a very upset Seward what was going on.

Dracula went after Mina next. Renfield also escaped. Van Helsing and Seward, who was now healed, went around to destroy the boxes of dirt that Dracula had brought with him. Vampires like Dracula, according to Van Helsing, had to sleep every day in their own soil, away from the sunlight. Harker finally figured out the name of the property he had sold—one that was adjacent to the insane asylum.

Van Helsing, Seward, and Harker went down to Lucy’s tomb to drive a stake through her heart. This would keep her from coming back ever again. Seward was quite upset with the prospect, but was convinced to help out. Mina was growing quite weak; Van Helsing set up a blood transfusion from Harker to her but then was called out by Seward. Dracula appeared and sucked blood from the transfusion, causing Harker to faint. Mina then licked some of Dracula’s blood. After Dracula left, Harker recovered, and Van Helsing and Seward came back, Mina was upset that she was now impure. She also found that she was able to see what Dracula was doing. He was heading back to Transylvania in his last bin of soil. The four raced to get to him and drive a stake through his heart. They succeeded, just barely.

Dracula overall was good. The acting was really great and made it feel as if the actors and actresses were actually living the scenes they were acting. Stay tuned for the Players next show, which I’m sure will be great!

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Men’s basketball struggles

Loses crosstown matchup with Sage; falters early vs.

SOPHOMORE FORWARD CHASE ALMOND GOES UP for a hook shot against Williams College, above. Junior forward Brian Hatcher shoots open layup, left. RPI fell 86-69 to Williams on Tuesday night.

RPI men’s basketball fell against neighboring Sage Colleges last Tuesday night at East Campus Arena 77-65. After a tight first half in which neither side led by more than four points, the score at halftime was Gators 35, Engineers 33. This changed in the second half as Sage took control of the game quickly, going up by twelve with 12:35 remaining. A layup by junior forward Brian Hatcher put the Engineers within five with eight minutes to go. But RPI never came any closer. Fastbreak baskets by forward Melvin Ford and guard Jorrdan McCray put the Gators back up by 12 with 4:41 left, and the Engineers didn’t challenge the lead the rest of the way.

In victory, McCray led Sage with 17 points. Guard Andre Robinson scored 16 points and hauled in seven rebounds. Forward Kai Deans totaled nine boards to go along with his 12 points.

Hatcher scored 16 points and nabbed eight rebounds, leading Rensselaer in both categories. Junior forward Tyler Gendron also put in a solid night, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Shooting guard Josh Dugas added 11 points and three assists.

On Sunday, November 30, the Engineers traveled to Vermont to take on Middlebury College in a non-league confrontation. Middlebury came out of the gates hot in the first half, putting together a 14-3 run late in the first half to take a 10-point lead into the locker room. In the second half, Rensselaer shot a scorching 73 percent from the field to keep the game close. A jumper by junior forward Tyler Gendron put the Engineers within one just five and a half minutes into the second half. But Middlebury widened the gap by going on a 16-6 run to take a 69-57 lead on RPI with seven minutes left. Working the clock, Middlebury took advantage of its opportunities in the paint and sealed the deal by making seven of eight free throws in the final two minutes. The final score was Middlebury 87, RPI 78.

Leading the way for Rensselaer was Gendron, who scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Senior shooting guard Josh Dugas added 20 points and converted on all three of his 3-point opportunities.

For Middlebury, forward Dylan Sinnickson scored 18 points and hauled in eight boards. Guard Jake Brown led the Panthers in assists with five to go along with his fourteen points.

Lastly, on December 2, the Engineers hosted Williams College. The Ephs caught fire early, shooting 11-of-15 from behind the arc in the first half, and took a 56-39 lead into halftime. Then, in the second half, Williams slowed down the tempo and staved off each attempt by RPI to cut significantly into the lead. The Ephs maintained their distance and won by a final score of 86-69. For Williams, guard Hayden Rooke-Ley shot 10-of-14 from 3-point range and finished with a game-high 43 points. For Rensselaer, Gendron scored 18 points, while Hatcher scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Following the loss to Williams College, RPI falls to 1-4 on the young season. The Engineers will travel to Orlando, Fl., to compete in the Land of Magic Classic against Ursinus College and Haverford College on December 28 and 29, respectively.

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GPA minimum change rejected by Senate

The Senate meeting on the first of December began with a presentation from the Academic Affairs Committee regarding progress the undergraduate research archive. Class of 2016 Senator Jessica Krajewski ’16 and project lead Elizabeth Anderson ’14 gave the presentation on behalf of the AAC. The project’s intention is to create a hub organizing the undergraduate student research done at RPI in both the past and present. Anderson stated that with this collection, students would see progress that has already been done, as well as the favored labs and professors for certain types of research. Krajewski reported that the Student Opinion Survey gave a positive response for this venture and some peer institutions have already incorporated similar ideas. Class of 2017 Senator Mason Cooper ’17 questioned which group within the administration would incorporate and host this archive. The duo clarified by stating that it could be housed under general undergraduate research, Folsom Library, or the vice president of research, based on the discretion of the administration.

The Senate was then presented with a motion from the Graduate Council which would require all senators to maintain a grade point average of 3.3. The motion stated that any student at RPI should put his or her academics first and members of the Senate had a responsibility as student leaders to “become the best version of themselves.” Should this requirement not be met, the senator in question would be removed from office. Likewise, students without a 3.3 GPA or higher would not be allowed to run. Michael Han ’16 brought up when previous Grand Marshal Charles Carletta ’14, discussed a similar motion. Han believes now, as he did before, that senators should not be held to a higher standard than the rest of the student body, as this would limit the pool of students that the Senate could draw from. Cooper questioned whether the inclusion of these statements would cause trouble in a future where the student body did not keep the same statistics on GPA while Class of 2018 Senator Justin Etzine ’18, claimed the statements were irrelevant to the GPA minimum. A vote to strike these statements passed with a vote of 16-7-1.

Returning to the motion as a whole, Cooper stated that immediate removal should not be the case instead he believed in a monitoring system until the GPA was increased enough. Interfraternity Council Senator James Whelan ’17 then made an amendment to change the 3.3 minimum to a 2.6 minimum. Graduate student Mike Cailola, graduate senator, underlined the motion’s intent to not limit, but rather strive to build higher standards after multiple senators brought up point against the GPA minimum. Han disagreed with the idea of giving to the motion and placing the minimum to a number which he found arbitrary. At this point, Gilliland made a further amendment to change the proposed 2.6 to a 3.0.

Class of 2016 Senator Shoshana Rubinstein ’16 took the floor and compared herself to the proposed motion. She cited her own academic success which did not necessarily correlate with a high GPA, a statement made to support the belief that a GPA minimum removes qualitative efforts. Graduate Senator Kristen Lee mentioned that the Senate was an extracurricular activity and students should not be spending too much time on Senate and its work and neglecting their studies.

A vote on the amendment to make the motion read 3.0 rather than 2.6 failed with a vote of 8-15-1. With the discussion returning to change the motion to read 2.6 instead of 3.3, amendment sponsor Whelan changed the 2.6 to read 2.66 to better reflect a B- grade. Audience member Joshua Rosenfeld ’16 was yielded time to make the suggestion that because the motion affected the entire student body, it should be brought to a student body vote rather than voted on by the Senate. The vote to change the 3.3 to a 2.66 was then called and failed with a vote of 7-10-7.

Class of 2018 Senator Keegan Caraway ’18 then made an amendment to replace the immediate removal with a probationary period in which the senator in question could improve his or her grades. Graduate Senator Spencer Scott said that there would be no time for a probationary period as the terms for senators only lasts for two semesters, a point which was echoed by Han and Gilliland.

Gilliland then made an amendment to strike the statement from the motion that allowed freshmen to bypass the minimum GPA requirement. To Gilliland, every senator should be held to the same standard, including freshmen and transfer students. Senators from the Class of 2018 brought up points that freshmen rarely know the environment they will get into once in college and often receive lower grades simply because of the other challenges they must face. Cooper made an amendment to the motion that would allow any student who did not have 32 institute graded credit hours to be excepted form this GPA requirement. During the discussion of this amendment, the Senate was forced to take a recess due to a lack of quorum incited by senators leaving the room until the membership dropped below 18 voting members. Once the Senate reconvened, a vote was called to approve Cooper’s motion, which failed with a vote of 1-12-9. Soon after, a vote was made to pass the amendment to strike the exclusion of freshman from the motion which failed with a vote of 1-12-9.

Graduate Senator James Gambino stated his belief that a high GPA has not been given its proper weight in conversations so far and that a 3.3 carries a good deal of influence in the professional world. A vote was called to approve or deny the motion with the proper amendments included. The motion failed with a vote of 1-16-5 via roll call.

The meeting then moved forward to the points of the agenda that were not yet covered. The discussion for the Meal Plan Policy Proposal and Referendum Election Rules were struck from the agenda by their respective sponsors in addition to the approval of the minutes from November 24. Attention was turned towards the lack of Arizona in Father’s Marketplace, an issue put on the agenda by Whelan on behalf of IFC. The motion put forward would recommend that Fathers does once again sell Arizona brand products for a $0.99 to $1.29 price point. Gilliland moved to strike all references to price in the motion, attributing faulty data as the cause. While graduate student Jen Wilcox stated that the Student Opinion Survey reflected an acceptance of a $1.52, Whelan stated that the IFC would prefer the stated price with a maximum price of $1.29. Joe Venusto ’17, head of the Hospitality Services Advisory Committee revealed that Arizona products were already in the process of returning to Father’s and that the mention of pricing in the motion will have little effect on the outcome. The amendment to strike prices passed with a vote of 14-3-4. In regards to the original motion, Han stated his disapproval that this motion did not go through Facilities and Services Committee which has a subcommittee to deal specifically with this issue. Caiola brought up the idea of postponing the motion indefinitely which was countered by Rubinstein who believed that the issue should be discussed as it came from a student. A vote was called on the motion as a whole which passed with a vote of 11-6-4.

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Editorial Notebook

Editor’s ideas for staying occupied

Winter Break is almost here; final exams and then we’re out! Most RPI students have nearly six weeks off. That’s a lot of time with no projects to complete, essays to write, or homework to do; it’s a time to relax and enjoy the break. Come up with a list of what you want to do either now or during the first week of break. I hope my ideas in this article will help you to generate your list.

To begin, two years ago on Black Friday I went out to Jo-Ann Fabrics and purchased fleece and made several handmade tie blankets. I have been wanting to donate them to children at a local hospital for a while now, and during this winter break, I will! If you are looking to keep yourself busy and entertained, purchase two pieces of anti-pill fleece two yards long, one of a solid color and one of a patterned piece. Then search online “how to make a fleece tie blanket,” follow the instructions, and viola, you’ll have created a super comfy and warm blanket. These blankets are nice to gift to family and friends and to even donate during the cold winter season.

Making blankets will probably only take up a day or two of break (unless you want to become a professional at it). What else is there to do you may ask? Day trips are always great. Get a group of friends together and take a train or all chip in for gas and drive to a city nearby, such as New York City, Boston, etc. Usually, cities have festive lights set up during the Christmas season, which are definitely worth seeing! Take a stroll in the park, go to a sporting event, have a nice dinner, and simply enjoy the day!

We’re up to three days filled now. Another day, when you’re scrolling through Facebook, and see an old high school friend pop up in your feed, send them a quick message. Ask them how it’s been, talk about some funny memories you both shared, and then maybe even meet up afterward.

This next one might sound a little crazy, but worth looking into. Go to a trampoline park. Over Thanksgiving Break, I went with my brother and sister to a new trampoline park nearby, and had a blast! Grab a group of friends together and check it out. Treat yourself to frozen yogurt or ice cream from a local café afterward. Other places just as fun to consider are indoor arcades, laser tag places, and bowling alleys.

You know that book you have been wanting to read for a while now? Stop by the library, check it out, and read it. Winter Break is a great time to catch up on a novel or two, and relax before classes start back up. Sip on a cup of hot chocolate and read by a fireplace, or if you’re someplace warm, prepare a slushie and read outside.

This is only a few ideas of what you can do over Winter Break. Remember, the opportunities are endless. Whatever you do, have an awesome Winter Break!

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Eco-Princess Fest inspires girls to pursue STEM careers

On Saturday, November 22, Ecologic and Student Sustainability Task Force co-hosted the second Eco-Princess Fest at RPI. This program is designed to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in young children, specifically young girls, while educating them on environmental issues. Both undergraduate and graduate students volunteered their time to make this event possible. Some students dressed as Disney princesses, while others dressed as wizards and everyday people. There were several tables, each set up with a different activity that taught children about a certain topic.

Tables focused on ocean pollution by visually showing students how jellyfish and plastic bags could easily be mixed up not only by marine life, but by people too. A picture of jellyfish and plastic bags underwater were shown to the children, who were asked to identify how many jellyfish were in the picture. Most people were not able to differentiate the jellyfish and plastic bags on their first try. The representatives at this table explained how reusing, recycling, and even using canvas bags instead of plastic bags could make a positive impact on issues these bags have on marine life.

The consumer products table showed ingredients in products, such as soap and shampoo, that people use on a regular basis. Guests found the ingredients of each product bottle and were provided with the uses of each of the content and the effects it may have on people, animals, and the environment. The premise of this table was to point out the potential harm and benefits of chemicals found in common every day products. This activity was meant to make consumers more aware of the contents in the products they purchase.

The table dedicated to energy waste education explained to guests the difference between certain types of energies. This table featured an interactive worksheet that allowed children to differentiate things that were powered by fuel from things powered by human work. Volunteers explained how energy waste contributes to pollution. They challenged guests to think of ways to reduce energy waste, like washing large loads of laundry.

The princess table contained crayon packs, tiaras, and wands, along with seeds that could be used for people to start up their own gardens. Another table that educated students on food included an interactive worksheet that allowed children to identify certain types of food. There was a table set that allowed kids to match certain foods into the categories of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein.

The table focusing on air pollution had balls to visualize how air particles and air impurities moved throughout the atmosphere. This table had an activity that had up to five levels of explaining of the effects of air pollution on the environment. Not only did guests learn how air pollution was affecting the environment, but they learned the scientific equations that are used to gather numbers and evidence of climate change.

The table focusing on physics brought out some bright children and helped others gain an interest in STEM. This table that contained many physics related examples, attracted the children, parents, and even volunteers with the seemingly magic ability to push and pull bubbles. This table also featured a vacuum that could blow up balloon, dry ice frozen marshmallows, and a static electricity machine. With all of these activities, students could easily find something that interested them on a scientific level.

This successful event brought college students, elementary students, and parents together through the education of science and sustainability. Everyone enjoyed themselves while learning new things whether it was from another table, a child, or a parent. It was a wonderful educational experience for all and it was made possible with the efforts of volunteers from Ecologic, SSTF, and students who showed an interest.

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New Residence hall changes proposed

Senate moves forward on Residence Hall Proposals and appoints graduate senator

The first motion on the floor debated how the Student Senate should move forward with their recommendations to Residence Life regarding residence hall improvements. While the agenda had originally called for a vote to see if these recommendations would be sent to the Residence Life staff, the discussion was not to center around what could be improved in the write-up of the work done so far. This project progressed under the work of the Student Life Committee head Lexi Rindone ’15 and project lead Kees Cranendonk ’15, both Class of 2015 senators. Via surveys directed at the student body and Resident Student Association, the Senate was able to gain a number of statistics that reflected the general feelings and thoughts of the residence halls. The intent of the project was to compile and organize this data into a single write-up which would be sent to the staff of ResLife and would suggest rankings for the various potential improvements of the residence halls. In regards to that ranking, Cranendonk stated that health and safety concerns were prioritized over other amenities and looked to shape high impact, low cost changes. Class of 2018 Senator Steven Sperraza ’18 questioned if there had been enough respondents to these surveys to make the contained data viable. Cranendonk was prepared to clarify this by including the number of respondents per residence hall in the final report. Shoshana Rubinstein ’16 , Class of 2016 senator, applauded the specific nature of the data as some areas of some halls needed more help than others. Director of the Rensselaer Union Joe Cassidy suggested a comparative survey of off campus and Greek housing should be attached to the report. After discussion, Rindone and Cranendonk agreed to increase the amount of raw data that was available in the report.

Having closed the conversation about the hall improvements, the Senate then turned attention the appointment of graduate student Benjamin Walcott as the final graduate senator. Current graduate Senator Kristen Lee spoke on his behalf, as he was not present at this meeting. Walcott is a second year biology graduate student and is currently the secretary for the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies graduate council and was believed by Lee to make a great senator. After finding out that he had at least two years left at RPI, Walcott was accepted as a graduate senator with a vote of 17-1-1.

The Senate was then presented with a motion that would support the efforts of the Facilities and Services Committee in regards to crosswalks. Michael Han ’16, FSC chairman, states that this motion would formalize the work made by project head, Patrick Aselin ’18. According to Han, should this motion pass, Aselin will have greater weight to his claims when discussing the issue with city officials. Graduate Senator Jen Wilcox questioned how the project is to be funded, and questioned whether it would be a joint project between the affected bodies. Han replied that for the crosswalks on Burdett Avenue, the committee was looking to apply for a federal grant in conjunction with Troy Middle and Troy High School. For the remaining crosswalks, Han looked towards both RPI and the city of Troy to move the project forward. Grand Marshal Kyle Keraga ’15 wondered if the approval of this motion would damage the school’s relationship with Troy. Morgan Schweitzer ’16, head of the Community Relations Committee, stated that it would not, a thought that was seconded by Class of 2018 Senator Justin Etzine ’18. Paul Ilori ’17 stated his worry that it may come across as a mandate by the school to the city, which was followed by Han’s statement that it is a piece of business that must handled. Rubinstein, while approving the mood of the motion, requested to see a more concrete plan to move forward. Han replied that in order to move forward with city officials, the project needed the backing of the Student Senate. According to Han, the official perceived Aselin as a single student involved in this project and did not see the connection to the Senate.

After some discussion to change the wording of the document, the notion arose of tabling the vote to a later meeting. The motion to table passed with a vote of 13-4-1.

With the official business done, the meeting then turned to committee reports. The Student Government Communications Committee Chairman Wilcox, stated that the results from the Senate student survey were published. The Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic representatives, James Whelan ’17 and Morgan Schweitzer ’16 respectably, reported that their executive boards have been elected. Rindone reported again that their Residence Hall proposal was being revamped and a draft was being written of their pharmacy proposal after discussions with Dr. Leslie Lawrence, RPI medical director.

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Top Hat

Election referenda posted

SLC work presented; GM’s advice for end of semester

Hello, RPI. I hope you had a fun and relaxing Thanksgiving Break. Each year, this break has been the perfect chance to reconnect with friends and family—as well as a prime opportunity to rest and recharge in anticipation of the final push towards the end of the semester.

The next three weeks will be busy. Many courses conclude their final round of exams and project presentations this week, and immediately following we’ll be entering into final exams. While this routine may be familiar for our returning students, I want to reassure all freshmen and new students on the RPI campus that it’s not as hard as it sounds. We’re attending a difficult institution, but with proper planning you can tackle these exams with confidence.

Make sure to study more than a night in advance—it’s never fun to cram for an exam. Next Monday and Tuesday are designated “Study Days,” and we’ll have no exams or classes during that time. If you focus early you’ll be much more comfortable tackling your exams. Additionally, reviewing a semester’s worth of knowledge can be daunting—so contact your professors if you need help, and find a study group! Studying with friends can reduce the stress of finals week, and very often you’ll find it much easier to pick up key concepts from your peers than from a website or textbook.

Lastly, don’t forget to pace yourself. As your exams or presentations approach, take an hour or two to relax each day and give yourself some breathing room so you don’t burn out. The Red and White Student Organization will be hosting Study Days at the Heffner Alumni House this Monday and Tuesday from 7 am–3 pm. Every semester, Red and White opens the Alumni House as a quiet, comfortable, and welcoming study environment for students to focus on their upcoming exams. If you’re with a group, you may also reserve a room for group use.

As this is my first Top Hat in two weeks, I wanted to give a shout-out to some of the great work that’s been going through the Student Senate. On November 24, the Student Life Committee presented its ongoing work on an analysis of student input into Residence Halls. This analysis has been assembled based on your feedback in the Fall Student Opinion Survey and conversations with Residence Life and the Resident Student Association. This week, the Academic Affairs Committee showcased progress towards a public archive of undergraduate research efforts. Both of these projects will continue to be developed through collaborative conversation with appropriate administrators and students. If you’re interested, shoot me an email over break or when we return in the spring, and I’ll connect you with the appropriate committees.

The Rules and Elections Committee has released a working document of proposed rules to govern referendum elections and petitions. This rule set may be viewed here: http://poly.rpi.edu/s/ji6zp. The document is open for public comment and suggestion, so feel free to voice your thoughts or propose edits. R&E intends to bring the ruleset to the Senate for a vote when we return next semester, so if you’re interested in election rules, now is an excellent opportunity for input.

Before I close this article, I wanted to thank everyone who I’ve had the pleasure of working with this semester in my role as Grand Marshal. This has been an amazing semester for the Student Senate, and I’m excited to see what the remainder of the term will bring. I also want to wish everybody—senators, students, faculty, and staff alike—a great holiday break! With five weeks off, take the time to relax and to reconnect with old friends. Go explore, play some games, or read a book you’ve been meaning to pick up. As usual, if you have any questions, you may always reach me at gm@rpi.edu! So once again, I’d like to wish everyone the best of luck with the end of your semesters, and a great break. You’ve earned it!

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Change the World Challenge awards contest winners

For many students, the beginning of the fall semester is a time to regroup after nearly four months off, meet up with friends again and get back into the swing of classes. Some students, however, came back and immediately jumped into new adventures. By the end of September, 75 teams had entered the newly redesigned Change the World Challenge, interested in exploring the market validity of their idea. The goal of the challenge is to give students the opportunity to take their first steps as an entrepreneur. During the six-week program, teams refine their idea by conducting customer interviews, feeling the pain points the user experiences and pivoting to address the uncovered recurring symptoms. Only 30 of the original 75 applicants advanced to the second round to actually begin on the six-week journey. In the end, only 10 teams are chosen to receive a prize of $1,000. This semester’s winners are, in no particular order:

Medificent—mobile application and website for tracking local infections, with the feature of online notifications. The team includes Alexandra Damiano ’15, Jenny Bergstrom ’15, and Liudmila Alekseeva ’15.

Background Screening—a smartphone app which leverages people’s normal everyday activities while alerting them to abnormalities that they otherwise would not be aware of, giving them the opportunity for early medical detection and sustained life. The team includes Thomas Hayes ’14.

Culture-Shift—a device designed to capture the critical physiological factors of vascular endothelial tissue to produce highly representative in vitro tissue models in high-capacity, while integrating with standard laboratory supplies, equipment, and experimental protocols. The team includes John Trasatti ’15, Paige Trasatti ’16, Chris Lamplough ’17, and Greg Merrill ’17.

Fire-Eye—an entirely new fire safety system that provides a method for predicting and preventing fires in your home before they occur. The team includes Spencer Parker ’15.

InvisibleFriends—a website and smartphone app that allows people with chronic digestive illnesses to track the connection between diet and symptoms. The team includes Abigail Gillett ’16 and Caren Irgang ’15.

Lightfeed—a wearable electronic sensor which spectrally resolves a user’s ambient light exposure over enabling researchers to study the effects of ambient light on human circulation function. The team includes Kevin Lyman ’15, Theo Pak ’15, and Ethan Spitz ’15.

Bluetooth Tracking—an alternative tracking technology to RFID that allows additional and improved functionality. The team includes Sage Trudeau ’16 and James Hanford ’16.

Park Now—a product to improve the parking experience in large cities. The team includes Edwin Liang ’15 MBA, Fanny Zhang ’15 MBA, Qi Ye ’14 MBA, and Yunru Wang ’15.

Quitli—a wearable technology that brings the psychology of habit to the quantified self-movement by recording those moments when you’re not at your best and letting you visualize their frequency. The team includes Alexa Aranjo ’15, Kevin Lyman ’15, and Shankar Rao ’15.

Mi Games—a user-friendly dedicated communication tool that allows for athletes to communicate with coaches, trainers, and nutritionists as well as allowing for direct communication between the athletics department and the fans. The team included Adalberto Ponce ’15 M.S. and Tommaso Gardini ’15.

The challenge will run again in the spring semester, so be on the lookout for the submission deadline at the end of winter break.

The Change the World Challenge is made possible by the generosity of serial entrepreneur and alumnus Sean O’Sullivan ’85.

To find out more about the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship, please visit http://scte.rpi.edu.

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Ski and Snowboard and Ski Team receive funds

Statler & Waldorf approved to print 1000 issues, Ski Team to rent safer vans

The Executive Board met on November 20 to discuss funds for two snow-related clubs, as well as the number of issues Statler & Waldorf could print for their next issue.

Josh Rosenfeld ’16 presented to the E-Board on behalf of the Ski and Snowboard club. Rosenfeld requested the reallocation of Ski and Snowboard funds to pay for an electronic keyboard lock on the games room door. The purpose of this lock is to allow the club to store equipment in the games room, while still having access to it for trips early on Saturday mornings. The lock would be installed on the double wooden doors that are currently only used as emergency exits. The Ski and Snowboard Club will retain their current space in the Union across from Father’s Marketplace for the remainder of the school year. Graduate student Chaz Goodwine questioned whether there would be a problem with allowing students to have off-hours access to the games room. Rosenfeld reassured the E-Board, saying that the only people with the 10 digit key code access would be officers of the club. In their first motion of the evening, the E-Board approved 13-0-1 to reallocate $540 to cover the electronic lock.

Next in snow sports was the RPI ski team. Paul Koetke ’15 and Ryan Kresser ’15 proposed to change the vehicles the team rents for traveling during the season. Currently the team rents minivans, which are unsuitable for the team’s purposes for a number of reasons. Kresser cited the lack of four-wheel drive on the minivans, which leads to horrible handling in adverse conditions. The ski team is one of the only clubs that still needs to travel through difficult weather. The minivans are also lacking in storage space. Each team member brings at least two pairs of skis and poles, as well as an overnight bag, quickly taking up space.

Instead, the team would like to rent Chevy Tahoes. The Tahoes would provide four wheel drive, better roof racks, and a higher ride. The E-Board had no qualms about the proposal, and in their second motion of the evening approved 14-0-0 to have an additional $1,450 to rent the Tahoes.

Finally, a discussion of Statler & Waldorf occured. While club representatives were not present, the E-Board allotted time to discuss the previous week’s proposal of allowing Statler & Waldorf to print 500 copies of their next issue. Since the number of issues was lowered from the proposal, a cost was not approved along with the issues. Statler & Waldorf, after talking with their printer, found that printing an additional 500 issues (for a total of 1000) would only cost the E-Board $200. Shoshana Rubinstein ’15 made the point that it is more beneficial for the printer to have the presses constantly running, instead of switching after small batches. Andrew Sudano ’17 reminded the E-Board that Statler & Waldorf has previously been approved to print 3,500 issues, and that boxes of issues remain in the Statler & Waldorf office. The E-Board felt that with fewer copies and a better distribution effort that it should not be a problem this time around. In the third motion of the evening, the E-Board approved 14-0-0 to overwrite the 11/13 motion, changing the number of issues printed to 1000 for a total cost of $2940.

Before the meeting closed, President of the Union Erin Amarello ’15 reminded E-Board members to talk to their clubs about budgeting. Finally, in their last motion of the evening, the E-Board moved to thank Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson for her hospitality during the Football with Campus leadership event of November 15. The motion passed 14-0-0 and the meeting was then adjourned.

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E-Board collects budgets

Administrative budgets reviewed before break begins

Hey RPI! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving break! Now it is time to buckle down for the last few days of classes and to push through finals so we can enjoy our extremely long Winter Break. Remember that the Heffner Alumni House will be open during study days for students to study with an endless supply of snacks and coffee.

As we enter the Christmas season, the Executive Board is also approaching the budgeting season. Reminder, final Club budgets are due on December 16. For those of you who don’t know, the E-Board spends four to five days going through every budget that falls under the Rensselaer Union each winter. These budgets include all of our clubs and organizations, the Union’s physical building budget, the Mueller Center, the Administration Office, and the athletics budgets, which include support for each of our teams, including the fitness and training centers, but not the head coaches’ salaries or the physical space of East Campus Athletic Village itself. During these five days we also calculate the Student Activity Fee for the upcoming year.

On the first study day, the E-Board will be reviewing the administration budgets and the budgets for all of the facilities we maintain. This encompasses facilities like the Mueller Center and the Union building as well as programming budgets such as the Union Speaker’s Forum, intramurals, and specific budgets for general club support. On the second study day, the E-Board then reviews the athletic budgets, trying to be as fair as possible to each team while keeping in mind the anticipated needs of clubs which haven’t been budgeted yet. Once budgeting is over each day, we are free to return to our studies with all the other students to prepare for our finals.

Then as Winter Break comes to a close, the E-Board will gather before classes begin to continue the budgeting process. On these two or three days, the E-Board goes through every club budget to determine the best way to support each club and to give students the most opportunity to participate in the activities they love. While this is a big undertaking, the E-Board is excited and enthusiastic. I am confident that while this budgeting cycle will be tighter than in years past, the E-Board will do a great job.

Once this process is complete, the clubs and organizations have time to submit appeals to the E-Board if they disagree with our decisions of the E-Board and are unhappy with their budgets. The E-Board will then hear any appeals and make a final decision regarding those budgets. Once all budgets are finalized, the Union Annual Report Committee receives all of this information and compiles our Union Annual Report. This report is a detailed description of where the Activity Fee is being spent.

I wish everyone the best of luck on their finals. As always, if you have questions about the Union or the budgeting process please reach out to me at pu@rpi.edu, or stop by my office hours on Wednesdays from 8:30 am to 11:30 am. If I don’t see you before you leave campus, have a wonderful Winter Break!

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