On June 29, a fire occurred in the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center as a result of a laboratory accident during a routine procedure. Only one student suffered minor injuries in the accident and the fire was quickly contained. Troy firefighters responded to the scene and put out the blaze, but were later sent to the hospital for a check-up. Although nothing was wrong with the firefighters, Troy wanted to err on the safe side, as they stated they were unsure what chemicals could have been in the lab and what the firefighters could have been exposed to.
This incident has sparked arguments between Troy and RPI, as well as many discrepancies in the information provided by the two. Troy has again brought up the idea of requiring RPI students to pay a public safety fee to Troy for fire and ambulance support to the campus. In late 2008, the Troy City Council urged that a proposal be sent to President Shirley Ann Jackson requesting students pay such a fee, but nothing came of discussions. The number proposed for the public safety fee by Troy last year was $50–$75 per student each semester, which would go toward paying for additional firefighters to staff the station. Although the cost for this would be around $500,000, according to estimates, the revenue generated by the proposed fee would surpass what the city needs to meet these costs.
We are grateful for the firefighters who help protect our community and campus; however, we do not think it is fair to request that students pay for service to our campus just because of RPI’s facilities expansion. During a press conference held after the fire, Vice President for Administration Claude Rounds explained that the Institute has already contributed by helping the fire department purchase a new fire engine, and gives back to the city in other ways, such as taxes on certain properties and being a large employer in the region.
While we understand the strain that the fire department is under, we think it is wrong to place this burden on the students. Many of us are still wondering how we are going to pay the tuition amidst the troubled economy without worrying about an extra fee going to Troy that is unlikely to affect us personally.