Barbara Nelson receives the Troy Treasure

BARBARA NELSON RECEIVES the Troy Treasure award at the Rehabilitation and Improvement Program/Rensselaer County Housing Resources annual dinner.

On Monday, October 28, Project Manager at Campus Planning and Facilities Design Barbara Nelson ’80 was awarded the Troy Treasure award at the Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement Program/Rensselaer County Housing Resources annual dinner. The Troy Treasure award goes to “an individual, group, or business who is passionately committed to improving Troy, toils in his or her neighborhood out of a love of community, and demonstrates his or her hometown pride in Troy in very positive and real ways,” according to the TRIP website.

Joe Fama of TAP Inc. introduced Nelson’s accomplishments. Nelson, originally from California, graduated from RPI with a degree in architecture in 1980 and became licensed to practice architecture in 1983. Nelson worked for TAP for six years, starting in 1980, when TAP was renovating houses in the Hillside North area. Hillside North is bounded by Hoosick Street on the south, Ingalls Avenue on the north, and 8th and 10th Streets on the west and east, respectively. In 1992, she came back to RPI as a campus planner and project manager and has played a major role in projects such as the East Campus Athletic Village as well as being an adjunct professor in the School of Architecture. Nelson was also on the Troy Planning Commission from 1998–2004 and is currently the chairman. She has also done many other activities to improve Troy, such as chairing Transport Troy and volunteering as an art teacher. Nelson has won other awards. Fama commended Nelson for all the work she has done.

Fama noted Nelson’s unfailing enthusiasm, citing the Alley Action project, which fills Troy’s alleys with art. He presented Nelson with her award as 10th Troy Treasure: a painted flower vase symbolizing Nelson as “a transplant who is prospering.”

In her acceptance speech, Nelson said that Fama was the person who introduced her to community engagement. She talked about what had inspired her, expanding upon how the citizens own the streets, parks, and other public spaces. She noted that many people had been working hard to make Troy a better place. Nelson also stated that while on the planning commission, she had seen many great projects. She commented that, while Troy might have a great deal of substandard housing, more good housing for low-income families is needed, and for that, she thanked TRIP. Nelson also noted that RPI has a similar award to Troy Treasure for staff members, the Pillar of Rensselaer award, and mentioned that several of her colleagues present had received that award.

In addition, founder of the Ark Community Charter School, Mary Theresa Streck, was honored with the 2014 Community Citizenship Award. Also present and speaking were RCHR Board President Michael Danforth, TRIP Board President Joseph Fleming, TRIP Executive Director Patrick Madden, and Rensselaer County Executive Honorary Kathleen Jimino.

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Staff Editorial: Living consciously at RPI

Your time at RPI is limited. The quality of your experience at RPI is only limited by your willingness to put yourself out there. Opportunities for unique experiences and personal growth are everywhere at RPI. It’s more of a decision of how to spend your time. Be proactive about what goes on around campus. Seek those opportunities that will create memories for you to cherish even after you graduate. They will help build yourself and form valuable life experiences for outside the RPI bubble.

There are many events that are true RPI experiences. Ever cheered for RPI at any sports games? RPI packs the Houston Field House for Big Red Freakout! in a sea of cherry red. Have you voted and received your mug for GM Week or prizes for Winter Carnival? GM Week and the Winter Carnival attract students and faculty alike to games, food, and music. Downtown Troy has many unique boutiques, eateries, and restaurants. Flying Chicken, LoPorto’s Risortante, and Psychedelicatessen are only a few examples. Ever tasted local produce from the farmer’s market? The chocolate milk from Battenkill Creamery, who is a vendor at the farmer’s market, is out of this world. Ever seen a show at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center? Like the chocolate milk, it’s a unique experience and also out of this world, in a different way. Have you done research? As a research institution, many opportunities are here at RPI, whether through the Rensselaer Center for Open Source Software or a lab in Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. Research will give you experience that you can showcase on your résumé.

At graduation, when pondering the past four short years of college, it may be easy to see which lost opportunities are most missed in hindsight. The time around graduation should be filled with pride in accomplishment, excitement for the future, and reminiscence of great memories shared with great friends. Try imagining yourself at graduation, listening to the names of your classmates, and see what you think about. What experiences do you remember most or any memories you have? Is there anything that you regret? Now adjust your life accordingly, and have the best experience for you at RPI.

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John Wick embodies classic 80s action film

Keanu Reeves returns as a dangerous and potent killer in his portrayal of John Wick

KEANU REEVES PLAYS his character flawlessly, pulling off a ruthless and vengeful man on a mission in his most recent film, John Wick .

I know readers may find this hard to believe, but I’m an action movie fan. From dark, gritty action in movies like Taken to over the top fight scenes like those in Kung Fu Hustle, I’m someone who enjoys them all. There’s a reason action movies are part of an enduring and growing genre, because there is something so absolutely cool about a character who goes beyond human ability and expectations to do incredible stunts. One of the pinnacles of this genre, which many would agree with, is The Matrix, a movie that blends an incredible plot, captivating characters, and revolutionary computer-generated images within an incredible action film. The star of the series, Keanu Reeves, has not had as golden a reputation in the movie industry as in The Matrix. However, I’m hoping John Wick, a ridiculous and ridiculously good film, flips Reeves’ public perception.

John Wick begins rather slow, setting up the unassuming and quiet titular character, played by Reeves. Wick is a man who lives alone in a large home after his wife recently died of cancer, but soon after the movie starts we see Wick’s wife’s last gift to him, a puppy delivered to his doorstep. Wick soon forms a strong bond with the dog, which is quickly broken after thugs break into his home in order to steal his car, killing the dog during their rampage. The thugs were young Russian mob members who then try to get the stolen car worked on at an auto shop. Although this seems like a rather plain setup to a revenge story, I was taken by this introduction, specifically because of all the questions it raised. Wick is a young man living alone and does not work, so how can he afford his lifestyle? Why can Wick understand and speak Russian? Soon after the intro we get our answer. Wick is not an ordinary person; he was once one of the most infamous killers in the underground world, known to many as the “Boogeyman.” This is one of my favorite parts of the film—the creation of this underground world with visuals rather than dialogue. The movie establishes an underground currency, a secret haven for assassins, and illegal professions within the world. I found it so engaging to learn about this whole illegal hierarchy that Wick re-enters as he plots his revenge.

The idea of showing, not telling, is transferred over to Wick’s character as well. The fight choreography is phenomenal; rather than doing quick cuts with a shaky camera, director Chad Stahelski is not afraid to focus on Reeves as he expertly demolishes scores of thugs. Wick is someone whose reputation precedes him, and you will see people acknowledge his history whether with respect, fear, or jealousy. Reeves is someone whose acting style many might call bland and emotionless, and they are correct, but this is perfect for the calm and calculating character of John Wick. On the other side of the spectrum, Alfie Allen, famous for his portrayal of Theon Greyjoy in HBO’s Game of Thrones, plays basically the same character but as the son of the head of the Russian mob who kills Wick’s dog. Allen’s egotistical, proud, and ultimately cowardly portrayal of Theon lends itself well to the role of Iosef Tarasov, who not only represents everything Wick isn’t, but is also the perfect target for revenge. I’m not going to reveal any other major plot points or characters because the movie is so fantastic that I think it’s worth experiencing a lot of these moments first hand; however, I must leave this movie with a big criticism.

After completing the movie, I can honestly say that the ending is absolute crap. It’s unoriginal and pointless, but luckily it doesn’t detract from the rest of the film, which is great. It may not be the next Matrix, but it is an enjoyable and surprisingly subtle movie with incredible action. I find it difficult to think of a better action film that has come out this year or past years since it’s so reminiscent of old school 80s action movies with a fresh coat of paint. John Wick is an original action movie that shines with talented actors, engaging settings, and amazing choreography and delivers more than promised as an action film, and really, that’s all a fan can ask for.

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Women’s hockey claims first victory

FRESHMAN FORWARD WHITNEY RENN PUSHES forward with the puck during the Engineers’ Family Weekend matchup against the University of Connecticut at the Houston Field House. The women went 1-0-1 for the weekend.

In the first game of a two-game home series with the University of Connecticut Huskies on Saturday afternoon, RPI scored three times in the second period to build a commanding 3-0 lead after 40 minutes of play. UConn answered with a power play goal midway through the third period but it was too little too late for the Huskies as they fell to the Engineers 4-1.

In the first period, both teams fought hard defensively and held each other scoreless. Senior goalie Kelly O’ Brien made eight saves while Husky netminder Elaine Chuli made seven. Despite an edge of three power plays to one, the Engineers failed to capitalize early. But then RPI hopes came to fruition when a fourth power play early in the second period resulted in a goal for junior forward Alexa Gruschow at the 2:22 mark. The goal was assisted by senior forward Ali Svoboda and senior defender Kathryn Schilter.

With 5:43 gone by in the second period, RPI received another power play when UConn forward Brittany Berisoff was penalized for interference. Gruschow won the faceoff, and dished the puck to junior forward Lauren Wash, who found Schilter open in the Husky zone. Schilter gathered the puck and found the back of the net just five seconds after the power play began to bolster the RPI lead to two.

Gruschow scored her second goal of the evening with 7:37 remaining in the middle period to give the Engineers a cushioned three-goal lead.

Nine minutes and 50 seconds into the third period, UConn took advantage of an RPI body checking penalty to cut the deficit to 3-1 by virtue of a forward Kelly Harris power play goal. As time ran out on a possible Husky comeback, Connecticut pulled Chuli with 1:18 remaining. 11 seconds later, senior left wing Taylor Mahoney scored an empty-netter to bring the game to its final tally, RPI 4, UConn 1. Wash and freshman forward Whitney Renn assisted the goal. The win marks Rensselaer’s first of the season.

The second game of the series on the following afternoon was much closer. UConn forward Sarah MacDonnell scored shorthanded four minutes and 23 seconds in to give the Huskies an early lead. But, the Engineers responded quickly when Mahoney found freshman forward Shayna Tomlinson to tie the score at one with 10:20 remaining in the opening period.

In the second period, RPI held off several Husky charges until a power play goal by Harris with 2:04 remaining put Connecticut back on top, 2-1.

6:39 into the final period, sophomore Laura Horwood tied the score, assisted by Gruschow and sophomore defender Hannah Behounek. The score capped off an RPI offensive spurt in which the Engineers fired 15 shots in less than seven minutes to begin the third period.

90 seconds later, Tomlinson almost gave RPI the lead, blazing a shot toward the Husky net. But the puck ricocheted harmlessly off the post and UConn goalie Annie Belanger gathered the follow from senior defender Delaney Middlebrook to keep the game tied.

The game was still tied after 60 minutes of play. Neither side managed to score during overtime and the contest ended in a 2-2 tie.

In the game Belanger made 30 saves on 32 shots faced while Engineer senior goalie Brianna Piper made 18 saves on 20 attempts.

Following the tie, Connecticut is now 2-4-3 while RPI holds a tally of 1-4-2. This weekend, the Engineers will travel to New England to face Harvard University on Friday, October 31, and Dartmouth College on Saturday, November 1 in its first Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference action of the 2014–2015 campaign.

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RPI research to improve future of electronics

Testing Nanowires: A view through the optical port of the Janis ST-100 Cryostat.

Dr. Kim Michelle Lewis is working within the Physics Department to design molecular electronics. She has been working on techniques to use molecules to build electronic circuits. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in physics in 1998 from Dillard University in New Orleans. She then went on to receive her master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan in 2003 and her doctorate in applied physics from the University of Michigan in 2004.

Lewis is using molecules to build electronic circuits by designing a two-terminal device (a source electrode and a drain electrode), and then connecting a molecule between the two terminals. Typically, this is done by connecting the two electrodes with a metal (e.g., copper, gold). However, in this case, she is using a molecule instead of metal. In return, the molecule is conducting electricity. Therefore, by applying a bias voltage, the current can be measured and the electrical properties of the molecule can be determined.

There is an array of applications that include molecular level transistors, diodes, and rectifiers. For example, a molecular diode allows the user to control the flow of current in only one direction. You can also create interconnects for integrated circuits for transporting charge. Her devices may also be designed to create a molecular switch to store information on the molecular level.

Lewis is focusing her research towards low-voltage applications (i.e., less than one volt). The circuits that she and her team creates could potentially be used for medical applications, such as pacemakers.

Recently, Lewis and her team have taken a look at a molecule called porphyrin, a perfectly symmetric molecule that can have at least two of its ends fractionalized with chemical groups that will allow the molecule to attach to metal. She and her team have observed that if these molecules are placed between a source and a drain, once a certain voltage is obtained, the molecules can switch to a higher conducting state. Therefore, it would potentially allow for them to store information at that state. At room temperature, they have found that this molecule can act this way. Currently, she is able to isolate single molecules in a circuit and then test single molecules.

Lewis entered this field of study because of the interdisciplinary aspect that it holds. Her work is both in the field of physics, understanding electron transport, while also allowing her to design electrical circuits, utilizing her degree in electrical engineering, and the field of chemistry, by engineering molecules to attach to certain metallic electrodes.

One of the end goals of Lewis’ research is to figure out how to stabilize the molecules. Currently, many aspects of the environment can affect the performance of the device, such as oxidation. In addition, many of these molecules are only stable at low temperatures, between four and 77 kelvin. She hopes to understand how the properties change with a function of temperature so that she can achieve room temperature applications. Lewis wishes to one day stabilize the molecules so that they function under all physical environments.

Lewis is leading exciting research related to low power applications. One day, her work may revolutionize the medical or semiconductor industry by producing molecular level circuits.

Additional information can be found on Professor Lewis’ website, or on her Facebook page at

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Editorial Notebook

Value of voting considered

Voting declared foundation of government legitimacy

Those of us who are United States citizens know that it affords us many opportunities that may not be available to citizens of other countries, and while it may not be a perfect utopian society, the U.S. is quite possibly one of the few nations in the world that can boast such a high degree of personal freedom. This nation has been built on a foundation of hundreds of years of work and sacrifice. Its past may have been less than ideal in some circumstances—the pervasiveness of slavery until the Civil War, the Trail of Tears, and Japanese internment camps during the Second World War come to mind—and it goes to show that nations can be as fallible as the people that make up their populations, but we have always pushed forward.

None of what the United States has become could have been possible without the core tenet upon which it was founded—the idea that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed, through proper representative bodies. Satisfaction with our government has been dwindling as of late; however, many Americans compare things such as head lice or traffic jams more favorably than Congress. This is also at a time when voter turnout, especially among the younger population, remains stagnant. Even though there is no scientifically-proven correlation between turnout and satisfaction, it stands to reason that an increase in voter representation during a time of national dissatisfaction may show representatives that citizens are serious about proper representation, whether it be at the city, county, state, or national level. In a time when lobbyists, special interest groups, and major corporations are pushing politicians for laws that are favorable for them, or loopholes to allow current practices to continue, it may be easy for politicians to lose sight of their constituency amongst the noise.

That is why, at least in my opinion, it is important to make every effort to vote. Casting the ballot is not an obligation, but rather, a privilege, and one that can have a major impact on the future of the nation. The promotion of increased voter turnout is equally as important. The inconvenience of having voting days on a weekday is something that should be remedied. After all, there is no reason to have voting days on Tuesdays any more—the practice that was created in 1845 so people would have time to go to the county office by horse and buggy, and make it back for market day on Wednesday. Some nations declare special holidays on voting days to promote turnout, while others hold voting days on weekends.

If one is not able to make it out to vote, or are out of town, state, or even country, one solution is simpler and doesn’t require a change of current laws—sign up for an absentee ballot. Many counties are able to process these either online or by phone nowadays, and it is an easy way to vote without even leaving the comfort of your own home/dorm/apartment.

The next election is next Tuesday, November 4. However, it may unfortunately be too late to register to vote for the election if you haven’t already. For those of you who have already registered and are getting vote-by-mail ballots, great! If you are a New York State resident, you can also go out to a polling station to vote, if you’re registered. If you’re not registered, please take this as a reminder—go and sign up as soon as possible. Taking part in the democratic process is something that not everyone can do, and is one of the ways to truly have an impact on the future!

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Students demonstrate their interactive projects

INTERACTIVE DEMO DAY ALLOWS students to display their projects to the public eye.

One of the most exciting parts of completing a project is being able to show it off. On Wednesday, November 12, students will have the opportunity to do just that at Interactive Demo Day. Between 4 pm and 6:30 pm, the doors of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center will be open to those interested in finding out what these technological phenomena have to offer. Often, these creations are class projects or derivatives thereof. Sometimes, however, they are organic with the students creating them completely on their own. Some have seen the public eye already, others have not. No matter what, the demos are truly spectacular. The spring version of the show included a collapsible water bottle, a magnetic origami window shade, and numerous augmented reality gadgets, among other things.

The event is co-sponsored by the Department of Communication & Media and the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship in a joint effort to bring the projects of hard-working students to the world. As much as the event needs projects to demonstrate, the event needs you! Everyone is welcome to come and try everything out, including children! Families are welcome to attend.

To find out more about the event, visit:

To find out more about the Department of Communication & Media, visit:

To find out more about the Severino Center, visit:

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Men’s rugby brings strong season to playoffs

SENIOR CODY CLIFFORD PICKS UP the ball in this file photo from a game against Marist College on September 20, 2014.

On Sunday, October 26, Anderson Field played host to the RPI men’s rugby club playoff game on a rainy afternoon. Rensselaer faced off against New Jersey Institute of Technology men’s club rugby team. RPI has pulled off an impressive five win and one loss regular season record. This is even more impressive because last season the team had a one win and five loss record. The Engineers’ only loss of the season came in a close matchup against Vassar College, in which they found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard, losing 27-22. The Engineers came out on top of contest 33-7.

Rensselaer started the game with little emotion and vigor, as NJIT scored the first try of the game only seven minutes into the half. The Engineers, recognizing the importance of the game, took the offensive driving on the Highlanders. After being in the 22 meter zone for a little while, senior forward Cody Clifford found the try zone 17:30 into the game. The Engineers found their rhythm for the half, proving their dominance. RPI outplayed NJIT physically, but couldn’t find the try zone for the rest of the half.

Rensselaer made some key substitutions going into the second half, utilizing its large roster and depth. The Highlanders, having a much smaller roster, were forced to keep their exhausted players in the game. RPI controlled this part of the game, having fresh players allowed for them to physically overwhelm the tired NJIT team. With 43:32 left in the game, sophomore Brady Condrin broke through the Highlanders’ defense and scored the second try of the game. NJIT couldn’t produce an offensive attack as RPI constantly drove on its defense. After being in the try zone for a little while, Condrin found the try zone again, and after missing the extra point, RPI lead 19-7. Then 65:12 into the game, junior Jordan Fisher kicked the ball down field past the NJIT defenders. He went on to race past all of the Highlanders players to find the ball in the try zone. Rensselaer added insult to injury as Fisher scored for the second time giving RPI a 33-7.

RPI advances to face Fairfield University next Sunday, November 2, in Fairfield, Connecticut. The Stags haven’t lost so far this season in eight games. With a win, the Engineers will move on to the Division Two conference finals on Sunday, November 9.

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Fowle released from North Korean captivity

FOWLE RUNS to his son after arriving at Wright Patterson Air Force Base on Wednesday, October 22.

Until recently, three Americans were held against their will in North Korea. Kenneth Bae was convicted on charges of planning to overthrow the North Korean government; he was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment. Matthew Miller is currently facing six years of hard labor for committing hostile acts. Finally, Jeffrey Fowle, a street-repair worker, was arrested after authorities discovered a bilingual English-Korean Bible that he had allegedly left in a Pyongyang nightclub. Officially, North Korea endorses “freedom of religious belief;” however, Christian evangelism is illegal. North Korean state media has reported that Kim Jong-un personally ordered the release of Fowle at the numerous requests of President Obama. North Korea often trades held foreigners to elicit economic concessions. Secretary of State John Kerry, however, has stated that “there was no quid pro quo” in this case.

Fowle has three children and a predilection for adventure, which was why he was touring North Korea in the first place. His fellow tourists described his character as friendly and quiet. The Bible in question is reported to have contained the name, several pictures, and the phone number of Fowle. About to leave the country via plane, Fowle was arrested at an airport three days after his visit to the aforementioned nightclub. Fowle was subsequently held for about six months. Since the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, Sweden acted as an intermediary for Fowle’s release.

A Department of Defense plane retrieved Fowle and returned him to his family at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Fowle has been examined by doctors and is reported to be in good health. Having lost his job after his benefits ran out, Fowle will accept an offer to return to his work. American officials are still trying to secure the release of the remaining two Americans in North Korea. In the past, North Korea has released Americans after visits from notable dignitaries such as former President Bill Clinton, who traveled to the country in 2009 to secure the release of two journalists.

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Editorial Notebook

Senior faces post-grad life

Between Reunion Weekend and Family Weekend, campus has been flooded with alumni in recent weeks and it dawned on me—that could be me next year. When I entered RPI in the fall of 2011, graduation seemed so far away. But now, with Commencement looming in the not-so-distant future, I’m terrified. I’m just beginning to wrap my head around the idea that this could be my last year at RPI or even college and I feel completely unprepared to enter the world of independent, self-sufficient adults.

My expected date of graduation is May 2015 but I still don’t have the faintest idea of what I want to do with my life. Will I go to graduate school? Enter the work force? Or move back home with my tail between my legs?

I decided to start my venture into the adult world by tackling the career fair. For bioinformatics majors, finding interested companies at the career fair can be a challenge as most of them are seeking engineers. Despite this knowledge, I printed my newly updated résumé, donned my business clothes, and marched down to the Armory in high spirits. As a senior, the pressure was on to impress company recruiters and land interviews. The daunting lines at Regeneron and the few other well-known biotechnology companies sent me shaking in my dress pants. I began to seek out companies that may not be ideal, but could at least be a good starting place. Very few recruiters had any interest in a “biologist” and sent me on my way. I left the career fair disheartened and my fear of leaving RPI without any job offers only contributed to my graduation woes.

After my seemingly failed attempt to impress recruiters at the career fair, I sat down and thought about my options. Among other possibilities, I’ve been considering continuing my formal education. I’ve looked into many fields of study and while I would be happy enough pursuing any of these paths, I don’t truly feel passionate about any of them. Many seniors seem to know exactly what they want to do and are well on the way to achieving their goals. Unlike many of my peers, I’m still floundering around looking for inspiration.

I may not know exactly what career I will pursue in the future, but I have learned a few things from the odd jobs I have worked. I want my work to be ethical, valuable, enjoyable, and something to be proud of.

A few summers ago I worked for the Office of Residence Life. I didn’t particularly have a passion for sorting thousands of keys, recoring doors, filing paperwork, or appeasing enraged parents, but I still looked forward to work every morning. It was easy for me to see why I enjoyed work so much—the people. My coworkers made the time pass quickly even during the most challenging days. I highly encourage anyone who has the time, to visit the ResLife Office and get to know the people who work there.

I have also worked as a cheerleading coach as an instructor at camps and coaching my own team. Since working as a camp instructor, very few things have given me as great a sense of fulfillment as seeing the athletes I coached get new skills. During my experience, I learned that helping others achieve their goals can be as enjoyable as reaching your own.

After all of this, I still don’t have the faintest idea of what I want my future to look like and that’s ok—I don’t need to have everything figured out right now. While I might not be developing life-saving medicines, designing new technologies or swimming in cash as a business executive in the future, if I enjoy what I do, I can still be happy.

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PSS: art extravaganza

ON WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, THE FALL 2014 INTERMEDIATE DIGITAL IMAGINE CLASS OPENED the IDI Art Gallery in West 112. The gallery included works of art from three different study projects and experiments—Surveillance, High Dynamic Range: Hyperrealism, and Panorama. Surveillance dealt with the nature of surveillance and life under surveillance in cultures around the world, in both digital and physical forms. It involved taking 48 photos and evaluating people’s personal opinions on surveillance. The HDR works involved studying the techniques involved in the creation of such images, as well as the creation of at least 15 images, which were then narrowed down to a single work. Panoramas involved telling a story or a narrative through the use of a number of photographic and/or graphic elements.
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RPI opens home action with two tough losses

FRESHMAN FORWARD DREW MELANSON SKATES through the Bentley defense with the puck in RPI’s Friday, October 24 loss at the Houston Field House.

This past weekend, RPI men’s hockey hosted the Bentley University Falcons of the Atlantic Hockey Association for a two-game series. Games were played on Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25. Both games ended in defeat for the Engineers, who simply couldn’t keep a potent Falcon offense at bay.

Friday’s game marked the first home game of the regular season for the Engineers. The excitement was tangible in the Houston Field House before the puck drop as several thousand fans piled into their seats to get a first look at the 2014 men’s hockey team. But, for all the excitement, the opening period ended the same way it began, 0-0.

RPI came out of the gates energetically to open the second period, maintaining possession of the puck in the Bentley zone for a significant amount of time. But, this disparity didn’t result in any legitimate scoring opportunities for the Engineers. On the other end, Bentley made efficient work of its offensive possessions, firing shots at junior goalie Jason Kasdorf almost every time it entered the RPI zone. After three Kasdorf saves, a shot from Bentley right wing Kyle Schmidt found the back of the net with seven minutes and 35 seconds gone by in the second period.

The second part of the game’s middle frame was characterized by defensive prowess, as both teams killed power plays late in the second period. For RPI, two power plays only seemed to further illustrate how much the Engineer offense was struggling. Only late in the second power play did the Engineers find an open look in front of the Bentley goal. But, this too was unfruitful as the puck was knocked away by a Bentley defender.

Kasdorf made three crucial saves on the Bentley power play to keep Rensselaer within one. Then, at the two-minute mark in the second period, the RPI offense awoke for a sudden, tying strike. Freshman forward Drew Melanson made a timely pass to a cutting freshman forward Lou Nanne on the left wing in front of the Falcon net. Then, Nanne corralled the puck and blazed a shot past Bentley goalie Gabe Antoni to tie the score. Senior defender Luke Curadi was also credited with the assist for the goal, which was Nanne’s first at RPI.

Bentley killed another RPI power play at 8:37 in the third period and scored on a breakaway 32 seconds later to move back on top, 2-1 with 10 minutes and 51 seconds remaining in the contest. Bentley then controlled the tempo of the game for the next four minutes, rattling off two shots before receiving a power play with 7:34 remaining on a senior defender Curtis Leonard slashing penalty. Just over a minute later, Bentley forward Will Suter took the RPI defense by surprise as he gathered a loose puck against the boards and slipped a top-shelf shot past Kasdorf to pad the Bentley advantage to 3-1.

For just a brief moment, Bentley seemed to have the game firmly in hand. But just 13 seconds later, Nanne scored his second goal of the evening, assisted by junior forward Mark Miller and Melanson, to put Rensselaer back within one.

In the final minutes, the Engineers fought valiantly to tie the score, but were turned away on all seven of their shots by Antoni and the Bentley defense. With 1:56 remaining, RPI pulled Kasdorf to get a one-man advantage in hopes of tying the score. Shots by freshman defender Mike Prapavessis and freshman forward Viktor Liljegren were knocked away. Then, Bentley cleared the puck into the RPI zone and forward Max French deflected a shot past an Engineer defender into the empty net to give Bentley a 4-2 lead. With the RPI goal still empty, Bentley took the puck away and Schmidt eased the puck into the Rensselaer net to give Bentley a 5-2 victory in the opening game of the series.

In Saturday’s game, Bentley forward Ryan McMurphy scored a power play goal with 4:05 remaining in the first period for what would eventually be the game-winning goal as the Falcons defeated the Engineers 4-0. Bentley forward Derek Bacon tallied three assists.

Forward Andrew McDonald scored shorthanded later in the first period while forward Alex Kubiak and defender Matt Maher each scored goals in the second session.

RPI outshot visiting Bentley 19-16 in the game, but Bentley goalie Blake Dougherty made 19 saves. Senior goalie Scott Diebold started the second game of the back-to-back against the Falcons and saved 12 of 16 shots he faced.

Following Saturday’s game, the Engineers fall to 1-5 on the young season while the Falcons improve to 3-2. Next Friday night, RPI will host rival Union College for what will be the first game between the two schools since the heated Mayor’s Cup game last spring. They will then make the short drive to Union to take on the Dutchmen again the following night.

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Clubs come before E-Board to discuss proposals

ELISE ROMBERGER ’ 15 and ALLI MORGAN ’16 PROPOSED their changes to the Executive Board regarding RPI Ambulance’s constitution.

After not meeting last Thursday, this week’s Rensselaer Union Executive Board meeting had a lot on their agenda. The meeting started with a food discussion among the board members, and that discussion was followed by several clubs coming before the board with different proposals and updates.

The food discussion was short, but many clubs have come before the board about the restrictions placed on their reception funds. So far, in the case of The Players and The Poly, these were case-by-case motions. In the next few weeks, the E-Board hopes to have a solution that can be applied to all clubs.

Rensselyrics was the first club of the night to speak before the board. Last April, the Rensselyrics, a co-ed a capella group, started recording for their new CD. Currently, they do not have all of the funds available to finish the project. They have half of the funds needed. They came to the E-Board to ask for a loan, which they have full intentions of paying back. It has been eight years since the last CD. In a 14-0-0 motion, the Union E-Board approved the loan of $1320.04 to complete CD mastering and production.

The next group to meet with the board was TALKS. TALKS runs a lecture series, and last year they held one in Biotech where over 200 people came. Modeled after TED Talks, TALKS works within the Union Speaker’s Forum. However, bringing in guest speakers requires a lot of money. In a 14-0-0 motion, the Union E-Board approved the reallocation of funds from the Union Speaker’s Forum.

Union Programs and Activities Committee Cinema, the next club to meet with the E-Board, brought the discussion back to food. UPAC Cinema is responsible for the movie showings for the community and students on Friday and Saturday nights. With three showings a night, members work from 6 pm to 2:30 am, an eight to nine hour job. In the past, UPAC Cinema rewarded their members with pizza for giving up their time on weekend nights. As a result, they came to the Union E-Board to ask for their food budget back. No motion was passed. The Union E-Board is still in the process of deciding how to act regarding the food budgets.

After UPAC Cinema, RPI Ambulance came to discuss changes to their constitution. The E-Board was pleased to see clubs updating their constitution and in a 14-0-0 motion, they approved the changes.

Design for America came in after RPI Ambulance. Since it was similar to RPI Design Collective, Design of America proposed to merge with DECO in order to share their budget and achieve their goals. Design for America, a national organization, requires projects to be done by the university clubs. Currently, there are four projects in the works and Design for America requires funding to make the projects happen. DECO only has one member currently; the rest graduated last year. That one member also happens to be a member of Design for America. As a result, the Union E-Board felt it would be easier for Design for America to merge with DECO, since DECO already has an established budget. In a 14-0-0 motion, the Union Eboard approved $1039 to DECO for funding events, materials and a Design for America instructor. Furthermore, 100 colored copies will also be available to the club.

UPAC Sound was the last group to come before the board. They were looking to purchase new sound equipment to replace what they currently have. They used to be in West Hall, but had to move. As a result, all of the sound equipment left in West Hall had to remain because it could not be taken out easily, resulting in less available equipment. The board passed a 14-0-0 motion to give $1050 to UPAC sound to purchase a replacement sound system, and the old equipment transferred to Rensselaer Music Association.

Closing reports and remarks from the President of the Union Erin Amarello ’15, and Director of the Union Joe Cassidy, concluded the meeting.

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Top Hat

Halloween packed with events, SPEAKOUT

Good morning RPI; Halloween weekend is coming up, and with it, a great number of exciting events and opportunities, both on campus and throughout our community.

First and foremost, Thursday through Friday, a number of organizations will be hosting Halloween themed events! On October 30, from 5–7 pm, the Freshman Five, Davison, and Barton will be collaboratively hosting Haunted Hallways: a trick-or-treat event that entertains hundreds of local elementary school children each year. Haunted Hallways is still looking for volunteers to help decorate, give out candy, and escort children, so stop by before the event this Friday if you’d like to take part.

On Friday, the Halloween season will hit its maximum with celebrations across campus, and many for a good cause. Pi Kappa Phi and Alpha Gamma Delta are collaborating to host a Haunted House Event this Friday at 49 2nd Street, with all proceeds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and The Ability Experience. Sigma Chi and Alpha Phi will be hosting their 45th Annual Haunted House at the Sigma Chi Fraternity House on 58 Pinewoods Avenue. This event is open to the public, with all proceeds going to the Col. Albert Pawling Memorial Statue Project. As if that were not enough, Halloween is October Troy Night Out, from 5–9 pm! Beyond the usual festivities, this month’s Troy Night Out features a number of Halloween specials!

Finally, Halloween Night at 7 pm is RPI Hockey’s Blackout Game against none other than Union College (boo!). The Blackout Game is an annual tradition, where RPI students are encouraged to dress in full black as they do their best to support the Engineers. It is a rare and exciting coincidence that this game should fall on Halloween this year. Given that RPI has not played against Union since our victory in the Mayor’s Cup last year and Union’s subsequent national title, this may be the match of the year for our players and fans. I would like to urge the RPI student body to join me at the field house in support of the Engineers this Friday—but remember: wear black, come in costume, or both!

On a more serious note, the RPI Student Health Center is holding the first in a series of confidential support group meetings, called SPEAKOUT, for victims and survivors of sexual assault this Thursday at 6 pm. Individuals interested are encouraged to attend, whether they are ready to share or not—the environment will be both comforting and confidential to afford students the maximum degree of protection, anonymity, and support. If you have any questions, you may contact Alex Blais from the Student Health Center at, or (518) 276-2231.

This week in the Student Senate, one of the members of our Academic Affairs Committee, Shreya Patel ’18, presented progress on the committee’s efforts to establish a universal collection of course syllabi for student use. This collection would be publicly available on the web, ideally via the Student Information System or Learning Management System. Academic Affairs believes that such a resource would greatly assist students with course selection by giving them a better understanding of what each course had required in the past. The project is currently in a highly promising stage, with AAC working towards a pilot iteration.

Finally, Monday’s Senate meeting also featured the appointment of Molly Dugan ’18 as our new Independent senator—Dugan joins an incredibly involved, capable, and passionate group of first-years on the Senate. With her enthusiasm for RPI and strong feel for student government, we in the Senate are excited for her. Welcome to the team! Additionally, with Dugan’s appointment, there remains only one Senate vacancy—the sixth Graduate seat. To our graduate students, if any of you are interested in making a difference at Rensselaer, have interest in working on a particular facet of the graduate student experience, or would like to become more involved on campus, please contact Kristen Lee, Graduate Council President, at, or myself at!

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Women’s soccer victorious

SENIOR DEFENDER KASEY MURPHY PUSHES past an opposing Vassar player in RPI 3-0 victory at home on Saturday, October 25. The game was also the Engineers’ Senior Day.

On Senior Day for RPI women’s soccer, senior midfielder Taylor Korytko scored six minutes in to give the Engineers a 1-0 lead. Senior midfielder Dana Sailor assisted the score, recording her first point of the season.

The following 30 minutes were a defensive struggle in which the Vassar College Brewers managed just two shots to RPI’s three. Then, in the 39th minute, the Engineers caught the Brewer defense out of position and took full advantage. Freshman forward Dali Alarian found junior forward Kate Edwards in front of the Brewers’ net for a second Rensselaer score. It was her second goal of the season and Alarian’s third assist.

In the second half, the Engineers continued to dominate. Freshman goalkeeper Tori Riopelle made three saves in 36 minutes of second half action to keep the Brewers scoreless. Sophomore forward Cori Winslow added a goal of her own in the 78th minute assisted by senior forward Sam Lamorte to give RPI a 3-0 final tally over visiting Vassar.

Vassar goalie Emma Nichols saved four of seven shots she faced, while Riopelle saved all three RPI faced.

The win brings the Engineers to 11-5-1 on the season and 5-2 in the Liberty League. Next up for Rensselaer is a visit to nearby Skidmore College on Wednesday, October 29, in what will be their final regular season Liberty League match. RPI will then host Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences on Friday, October 31 at East Campus Stadium.

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Senate appoints Dugan as Independent senator

This week’s Student Senate meeting began with a motion that would confirm the Grand Marshal’s appointment of Molly Dugan ’18 to Independent senator. Dugan gave some background about her past experience, and referenced her success in increasing membership in her previous projects. No questions were asked by the Senate, and Dugan’s appointment was confirmed with a vote of 21-0.

After this, Academic Affairs Committee member Shreya Patel ’18 exhibited the work done so far on an electronic collection of courses. This project has an end goal of circulating the more specific course outlines designed by professors so the students looking to take these classes may have a better understanding on what its objectives are. Patel reported that students would like to find out the work and content of each class, and the publishing syllabi allow for a deeper look into their academic future. In addition, Patel stated that graduate students would benefit as they would be able to track what information they have already taken in and use this information to compare RPI to other prospective schools. So far, those dealing with the project have exchanged information with the Registrar’s office along with other key administrators, and confirmed the support of the department heads. Senate Vice Chair Christina Gilliland ’15 asked about what was currently holding the program back. In response, Patel recounted that there were still some heads of administration that needed to be contacted. Provost Dr. Prabhat Hajela is one of the most important contacts to make, as his office would be the main supplier and organizer of the syllabi. Many of the senators present questioned how this information was to be sorted and held. Academic Affairs Committee Chairman Marcus Flowers ’16 stated that these decisions have yet to be made and still need the assistance of higher level administration. Grand Marshal Kyle Keraga ’15 questioned the project’s upkeep in future years, followed by a question by Mason Cooper ’17 about quality assurance of the syllabi. Flowers answered by stating the project was still in its early planning and once it is implemented, the long-term upkeep will be made.

Following the agenda, reports were made by the various committees which involved the Student Senate. Chairman of the Rules and Elections Committee Melanie Todis ’17 reported that substantial progress is being made on electronic voting. Chairman of the Facilities and Services Committee Michael Han ’16 stated that substantial and surprising progress was made on pet-friendly housing, and within its subcommittee, the Hospitality Services Advisory Committee Subcommittee Chairman Joe Venusto ’17 conveyed that this work currently consisted of benchmarking peer institutions and to see how they handled student feedback to their food services and to analyze the comparative pricing of the meal plans. Kees Cranendonk ’15 gave a report on behalf of the Student Life Committee. In the past week, the committee discussed making universal access a potential project. SLC has also begun to examine results of the recent Reddit thread concerning the Counseling Center and its services. In addition, Cranendonk mentioned the installation of new doors in BARH is in the works by ResLife, which would effectively separate the dining hall from the actual rooms of the residence hall. Keraga finished the meeting with his report, which publicized the need for more membership in HSAC, the Constitution Committee, and Student Government Communications. Keraga mentioned that all of these groups are receptive to members, either from within the Senate or from the general student body. For those interested, he may be reached at

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RPI introduces TALKs, Black Friday game

Hey RPI!

It has been a whirlwind of a week and I cannot believe October is already coming to an end. Family weekend was a blast and I want to thank all of the clubs, organizations, sports teams, and administrators who helped make this weekend possible. From the sports games, to music concerts and dances, to the international festival I always enjoy seeing the breadth of involvement here on campus. I would like to congratulate all of the students who were honored at this year’s honors convocation on Saturday; you deserve to be in the spot light for all of your hard work and dedication to your studies and to RPI. I would also like to congratulate John Spangenberger ’15, this year’s winner of the Nussbaum Award, for his service to RPI and the surrounding community. I am constantly amazed by my peers; it is always a pleasure to give recognition to your hard work and achievements.

Last week, the Executive Board had a very full agenda. Be on the lookout for the Rensselyrics’ new CD; as of last week they have secured the funds needed to finish the production of their music and it will soon be available both on CD and on iTunes! The Union Speakers Forum has decided to team up with TALKS, a student group who has created TED TALK style seminars called “Tidbits”. Tidbits is a series where lecture meets casual over coffee and doughnuts and students and faculty come together to listen and learn. Its inaugural event is this Friday with our athletic director Jim Knowlton giving a TALK about “The Curse of Being a Leader” at 9 am in Mother’s Wine Emporium, in the Rensselaer Union. Stop by to learn about recognizing inner potential and exploring the personal risk of holding yourself to the highest standards. Union Programs and Activities Committee Sound presented a joint proposal with the Jazz Ensemble to get new sound equipment so that both groups could better serve student needs. There will now be sound equipment installed in the J-Building for our student music groups to utilize. In addition, UPAC Sound will have a new system for clubs to rent which is much easier to transport and use. RPI Design Collective is merging with a new group, Design for America, to give students real project experience working on solving local problems. If you are interested in joining, please contact Andrea Ukleja at

This weekend is going to be an exciting one here on campus for RPI sports fans. Friday is the annual Black Friday Men’s Hockey game vs. Union College. The jerseys worn by the players are one game only jerseys which are raffled off during the game, and then presented to the winner directly after. The winner of the raffle gets to go out on the ice, collect their jersey, and meet the players. On top of our normal Black Friday festivities, there will also be a costume contest! The winner receives a jersey signed by the entire men’s hockey team. The women’s lacrosse team will be handling all of the raffles and all of the goal celebrations which consist of throwing the always coveted Black Friday T-shirts into the crowd. This is one of my favorite events of the year and I hope to see everyone there! On Saturday, our men’s and women’s cross country teams hosting and competing in the Liberty League Championships at 1:30 pm at Saratoga State Park. Let’s get out there and support our fellow classmates as they strive to become Liberty League Champions and kick Union’s butt.

Have a wonderful week everyone!

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Engineers fall hard against Hobart on Family Weekend


On Saturday, October 25, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hosted eighth-ranked Hobart College. Rensselaer, coming into the game with four wins and three losses, hoped to break their two-game losing streak. Hobart entered the game with an undefeated record. The Engineers came into the game with a lot of energy as they attempted to dethrone the Statesmen and put their season back on track. Sadly, Rensselaer couldn’t handle the physicality that Hobart displayed, losing 35-3.

The Institute started sophomore quarterback Tommy Morgan for the second week in a row as junior quarterback Jeff Avery is still sidelined with an injury that he received two weeks ago against St. Lawrence. Rensselaer’s offensive rushing attack contributed 154 total yards; however, this was overshadowed by the dominance of the Hobart rushing attack as they picked up 295 total yard rushing. Neither team contributed much to the game through the air as the Engineers produced only 64 total yards while the Statesmen had 84.

Rensselaer’s defense was led by senior defensive back Nick Borkowski, who had 10 tackles and an interception on the afternoon. However, the Engineers defense had a weak showing as the Statesmen averaged 7.8 yards per carry and 5.3 yards per passing attempt.

As the game opened, RPI won the coin toss but elected to defer possession until the second half. The Institute’s defense stopped Hobart on their first drive, but when Hobart got the ball back for their second possession, they found the end zone after a 33-yard run. Hobart missed the extra point attempt; the score was 6-0. Hobart regained possession with two minutes left in the quarter and they began to drive down the field until the ball was intercepted by junior defensive back Philip Lanieri III.

Hobart regained possession with 13:05 left into the second quarter. Seven plays after regaining possession, the Statesmen found the end zone a second time as a 3-yard run put them ahead by 12. Once again, Hobart botched the extra point.

The rest of the first half was a compilation of exchanged possessions and an interception. However, with 3:36 left in the half Rensselaer drove the ball down to the 37-yard line where senior kicker Andrew Franks made an impressive 54-yard field goal to score the first and only points of the game for RPI. By making the 54-yarder, Franks broke the school’s previous record of 51 yards that he had set against WPI in September.

The Engineers began the second half with possession, but sadly, Hobart intercepted a Morgan pass and returned the interception for a touchdown, making the score 19-3. The Statesmen began to show their dominance as they scored again with 5:35 left in the third quarter to put them ahead 26-3. RPI suffered another big loss as Morgan got hit hard in the backfield forcing freshman third-string quarterback Mathew Gilman to come into the game. After the Engineers turned the ball over, the Statesmen came right back scoring with 55 seconds left in the third on a 55-yard run to increase their lead to 33-3.

Rensselaer started the fourth quarter with possession of the ball; however, after going three and out, they were forced to punt. Then, the Statesmen blocked the punt, and the ball traveled 30 yards out of the RPI end zone. The result of the play was a Hobart safety giving them a 35-3 lead. The rest of the game was a constant exchange of possession as neither team could produce much additional offense. The game ended with the Statesmen topping RPI 35-3.

With the loss, Rensselaer moves to a record of four wins and four losses with a 2-3 conference record. The Engineers travel to Springfield College next Saturday, November 8, to continue their league play.

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My View

Collegiate demands unsuitable for learning

Current education practices unsustainable; excessive work devalues students' worth

Our committee was thinking about how to make college courses better by using the knowledge of cognitive science, particularly learning theory, and the skills of successful developers of video games. Such knowledge with the technology afforded by computers and the Internet can probably be used to improve college courses.1 Because the best educational practices might be time and effort intensive, we addressed a basic issue: What is a reasonable amount of study (“work” at learning) that is expected to successfully complete a college course?

Apparently, a college credit-hour is a unit of measurement for substantiating meaningful effort devoted to a course of study. Most colleges require about 120-128 Ch to earn a Bachelor’s degree. That usually involves separate courses of one to six Ch; most courses being three Ch (uniquely at RPI, most are four Ch). Usually, a degree involves eight semesters of about 16 weeks. These educational activities should culminate in students being considerably more knowledgeable than those not so engaged.

Historically, the primary means of imparting knowledge was a lecture or a demonstration lasting an hour. That practice transitioned into the standard that courses that meet three times a week for an hour across a semester should be a three credit course. In addition, learning outside of class meetings is typically required. An informal standard is that students spend two hours out of class studying for each hour of lecture [(2 X 4) + 4 = 12 hr/week or for 4 courses, 48 hours]. If students should work as much as adults usually work during a week, 40 hours, the standard would be 1.5 hours for every hour in class. Establishing a norm for serious study for a full-time student to be nearly 40-hours a week, i.e., about 1.5 hours of study outside of class-time for every credit hour, allows flexibility to account for individual differences in preparedness among those enrolling in a course of study.

A convenience sample of 103 undergraduates at RPI indicated that nearly all understood, as related by many of their course-managers, that 1.5 to 2.5 hours of study outside of the class-meeting time was required for each one hour of credit. A case can be made that a course demanding as much as 2.5 hours beyond the scheduled time in class is probably excessive, unless class-time is limited. The demand of 2.5 hours of studying for each Ch is excessive on the grounds that if all courses demanded that much, students would be required to do intensive studying for 56 hr a week. If work is a routine chore, many can manage 60 hours of work a week. However, 56 hours of intense studying is very demanding and probably so demanding that it cannot be sustained for a semester (known in Troy as the Tute Screw; no matter which way it turns, you are screwed).

Professors understand that immersion into a subject matter is essential to eventual development of expertise. What some professors evidently do not understand is that that kind of immersion usually does not come about by requiring large, fixed amounts of work, particularly under the threat of failure. It comes about by choices of how to spend one’s time, what is rewarding to a person (be it artistic creation, scientific research, building better devices and structures, or creating and contributing to organizations). To allow for this transition from work to devotion (from a job to a vocation), scheduled work should not be all consuming. The curriculum of a residential college should provide sufficient time for students to pursue their own academic pursuits; should provide opportunities to be creative and develop a love of attainment, for attainment’s sake.

If students are to be efficient learners, they must have time to remain healthy; therefore, the curriculum must regularly allow for such things as adequate sleep, nutritious eating, and other health-maintenance activities. And, of course, who doesn’t want college students to be efficient learners?

Residential colleges are considered valuable because they provide for many opportunities for valuable extracurricular activities such as student-governance, student-journalism, drama, sports, a lively social life, work-study, general reading, tinkering with building things, and doing research. These take time and effort. Therefore, course-work should be limited to allow for these valuable activities.

As stated, most students understand that attending class and studying outside of class time is a requirement for getting course credit. Further, very many agree that the outside of class work should be from 1.5 to 2.0 hours for every hour of class time. In our survey, however, there were a few outliers. A few students indicated that the norm was less than 1 hour of studying outside of class for every hour in class. There evidently is a professor or two who dictates that 4 hours of studying outside of class and lab is expected and required to pass their courses.

There are implications of disconnects between the number of credits earnable for a course and the amount of work (usually study) demanded by course-managers. When the demands for work are greater than the credit-to-be-earned, the instructor is infringing on students’ personal time and likely reducing the time they can spend with their other courses. Putting it simply, the instructor who demands more work for a given amount of credit is devaluing a student’s worth; cheating the student in a manner similar to those notorious “sweat shops” where there was no union to bargain for fairness. We learned, for example, that an instructor for a course on organic chemistry has demanded 4 or more hours of study outside of class for each credit hour earnable (with an associated lab, 12 hours plus time in class and lab or approaching 20 hours a week). Such excess has a number of ramifications. For example, no ROTC student could reasonably take this course; there are just not enough hours in a week to deal with this demand and the demands of their other four courses (as much as 60 hr a week of intense study of topics of usually, initially, of marginal interest). Further, the same instructor, by rumor and some data-collection, was constantly threatening poor grades by making tests nearly impossible and apparently gloating over the fact that many students were not getting scores usually indicative of passing grades. Given that grades are a valued “commodity,” and given that a nearly required course of study such as organic chemistry is necessary for further education along a variety of lines, e.g., entrance to some schools of medicine, the student is put at an unfair advantage compared to students at other universities where instructors are more reasonable. The continuance of excessive demands by an instructor represents a failure of the instructor, the instructor’s department head, curriculum committees, deans, and the provost; persons who should be looking after students by keeping things reasonable and fair (incidentally and sadly, some of us expect each of these responsible persons will blame others for their failures and continue to do nothing).

There is also “cheating,” when the demands for work are less than the credit to be earned. The student is prevented from taking other courses by the limits on credits that can be taken during a semester. Theoretically, we value a broad education, but limit such by almost demanding that each course be a fixed number of credits. Theoretically, there is nothing amiss in having one credit courses that address an interesting topic for less than a semester. Relatedly, there is nothing amiss in having a course of study for a major in chemistry that has many credits during each of two semesters if, indeed, such is an integral part of a major. That intensity of course-material, however, is not necessary for many students pursuing goals other than becoming a chemist.

The student who has the understanding that the norm is to study only a fraction of an hour outside of class to earn one credit is probably not planning sufficiently to earn good grades. Most course-managers at RPI indicate that more is required.

There is evidence that modern college students are more distressed than previously.2 Stress can occur as a result of excessive cost of a college education coupled with the possibility that such money-outlay will not yield sufficient benefit. There is the sad fact of students ending their quest for a degree with only some credits and considerable debt. This usually means that the student has a reduced way of paying their debt (a truly stressful circumstance made worse by the understanding that loans are often given at high interest rates and collection agencies are vicious). Trying to meet unreasonable demands is stressful in proportion to the consequences of failure. Excessive stress is a setting condition for clinically significant anxiety and depression which, in turn, have consequences such as reduced cognitive ability and potentially suicide. In brief, this is serious stuff. A residential university should be a community that surely does not induce high stress and has institutional norms supporting both accomplishment and freedom to innovate.

We started thinking about what a college credit signified in terms of hours of learning for a credit hour. We confirmed what we thought was the informal norm: college students are expected to work at a level of those with full-time jobs, i.e., about 40 hours a week, leaving considerable time for extracurricular activities. We also learned that some individuals of our community apparently have not incorporated the cultural norms of excellent residential colleges.

We are interested in your feedback. If you would like to comment on the content of this article, please join our Facebook group at

Dr. Larry Reid

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

1 The consideration of video games as teaching us how to teach follows from the work of James Paul Gee whose work one reviewer suggested will inform you of the possibility that video games are templates of instructional tools of the future. Gee, J.P. (2007, revised ed.) What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Macmillan.

2 Novoteny, A. (2014). Students under pressure. Monitor on psychology, 45, 37-41.

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Graduate Council

Letter regarding GSC’s CLASS fee position

The Graduate Student Council has been working since the beginning of the semester to address the new Graduate CLASS Fee that has been charged to all full-time graduate students this semester. The fee is $85 per semester in addition to the normal Rensselaer Union Student Activity Fee for all students. This week, to formally address the GSC’s position and interests, we sent a letter to the administrations on campus who are responsible for deciding how the additional money will be spent, the letter is as follows:

“To the Office of Graduate Education, Office of Student Life, and Dean of Students Office,

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) would like to thank those who have taken the time to meet with us as well as members from the graduate student body in the recent months to address the Graduate CLASS Fee that was implemented this year. Moving forward, we would like to continue our collaboration with the Offices of Graduate Education, Student Life and Dean of Students to openly discuss the variety of ways this new fund can benefit the graduate student body and enhance their experience at RPI.

The GSC would like to formally recommend how we would like to see the funds spent as well as policy around the Graduate CLASS Fee be structured. Policies that we request to be established are as follows. First, we would like a waiver process to be implemented for students who live more than a 25 mile radius from the RPI Troy campus. Once this waiver process has been established, we would like it to be clearly explained to all graduate students in an email from the proper administration. Secondly, we want all expenditure of the Graduate CLASS Fee fund to be completely transparent to graduate students. We request that there be an accessible financial report available each year. Thirdly, the GSC would like to be involved in any hiring process for positions that would be compensated, either partially or fully, from the Graduate CLASS Fee funds. We would like to meet potential applicants, and be able to give feedback for who we believe would be best suited to work with our graduate community.

In addition to policies that we have recommended, the GSC would like to recommend programming ideas as well as areas that we believe could benefit from additional support. As suggested by the former VP for Student Life, we request that a portion of the funds be allocated to the Graduate Student Council for our annual student events and to be under direct control of the elected student officials. We would also like to see a portion of the funds be used to support graduate student travel to conferences and skill development workshops. The GSC would be more than happy to be part of the reviewing process for applicants applying for additional travel funds. Additional, we would like to see funds allocated to graduate student groups on campus to aid in their ability to bring invited guest speakers to campus, support graduate student volunteers in the community with outreach programs, as well as student groups with involved graduate students who need sponsors for events. The GSC is fully supportive of additional programming for faculty/advisors in how to interact and maintain a good relationship with graduate students. Many students from our graduate body have shared with us their desire to make advisor training workshops mandatory, benefitting arguably the most important relationship graduate students have in pursuit of their degrees.

In the future, we would like to discuss the possibility of the Graduate CLASS Fee being included under tuition charges. This would most similarly mirror undergraduate billing structure and be more continuous with school-wide charges. Additionally, if there is need to increase the Graduate CLASS Fee charge, we would like to notified in advance and be supplied with reasoning so we can address our student body accordingly and eliminate the confusion when e-bills are posted. We would like to thank you again for your time and effort in working with us the past few months. We look forward to continuing our work with you to improve student life for all graduate students during their time spent at RPI.


The Graduate Student Council”

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