Archive for the ‘Responses’ Category

Thoughts on Election Arithmetic

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

In one week, RNE will hold the fourth in a series of two elections. RPInsider has a quick summary of the calculations which produced this counterintuitive result, but that won’t tell you anything about the perverse axioms used to derive such a nonsensical method of counting.

Current GM and candidate Michael Zwack has written some comments, in which he says:

Together we need to identify issues so we can positively address them.

Oddly enough, we did that already. We’ve already been through the process of violations and sanctions, just last year, with the same candidates. There was a general consensus that the election rules were the problem. One Senator even said, “What were we thinking when we approved them?”

The issues were identified, but no one “positively addressed” anything, and last year’s rules were copied and pasted into this year’s handbook. Same equations, same initial conditions. No one should be surprised by the same results.

The election process needs to be redesigned from scratch, keeping these facts at the center:

  1. The point of elections is to discern the will of the students.
  2. The point of rules is to ensure fairness.
  3. The point of sanctions is to correct unfairness.

This implies that there should be no sanctions for something that does not create an unfair advantage. It implies that sanctions are not primarily punishments or political tools. It implies that they should be proportionate.

It also implies that election results should not be nullified unless there has been massive deception of the student body. Like, say, a candidate who is really an inflatable whale, or something.

The current rules prohibit too many things which do not cause unfair advantages, and they allow sanctions which simply add another layer of unfairness. RNE can issue any penalty it likes for any infraction. You can get all your posters torn down for using your campaign manager’s contact information instead of your own. (That happened two years ago.) You can lose postering rights, which are granted to everyone by the Student Rights and Responsibilities, for postering on the footbridge, which is not even RPI property. You can get your spending quota reduced for putting multiple candidate names on the same poster (though that rule appears and disappears.)

Study the election system carefully, and then ask: is this really a process for discovering the will of the student body? Is the victor its legitimate representative?

At the very least, it’s reasonable to answer “Not entirely.” There has to be something wrong with a system that produces results like “4 < 2″.

Student government has known about this for fifteen years. It is what brought the IOP into being. The problems it causes are obvious. Just look around: there are election posters when you should be studying for finals. And still no one has made elections fair and just.

I’m not even going to explain why this means you should vote for Arthur.

Comments on a General Message

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Our president has sent out a general e-mail explaining what’s going on. I’m not sure if it is related to the Uprise or if it was planned anyway. If you don’t have a copy in your inbox, RPInsider has posted the text.

I’m only slightly pleased by the report, though if it is a first step toward more transparency, it should be encouraged. I’m glad that “we do not anticipate any further reductions in force”, though this does not rule out more layoffs. We are all reminded that past layoffs (”proactive steps we have taken”) has resulted in “the smallest tuition increase since 1996″, which is still 3.1 percent. I suspect the recent drop in inflation rates could have something to do with it as well. (Tuition historically increases faster than average income for almost all schools, not just RPI.)

There’s an ominous line under the Academic Enterprise section:

In keeping with our goal of building the long-term academic strength of Rensselaer, we are moving away from hiring faculty on a temporary basis from year to year. This means that more of the responsibility for the curriculum and course offerings must be assumed by the tenured and tenure-track faculty.

This is referring to the non-renewal of contracts for various clinical and adjunct faculty. You may have read about this in S&W; I plan to rant about it here soon.

The message goes on to restate the plans for modifying student life. I will rant about that too at some time in the near future.

While it’s nice to get some explanation of what’s going on, I want to remind everyone that that’s not all the student body is currently looking for. For quite some time now, we have first heard about plans affecting us after they were finalized. That’s what the Uprise was about, and that’s what needs changing. Some attempt to gauge general opinion and use it as a factor in the decision process would be a good beginning.

As the new posters say, “How can listening to students possibly be so hard?”