With commencement just around the corner, campus has been abuzz with controversy surrounding the awarding of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia with an honorary degree from the Institute. Various people around RPI have passed around a petition hoping to bar the judge from the ceremony. Additionally, a Facebook group has been started with the aim of encouraging people to boo Scalia off stage during the event. Many saw how much controversy this decision has brought to campus in last week’s Poly with members of the Rensselaer community weighing in from both sides of the debate.
Each outlook surfaces a new opinion; some individuals believe Scalia’s judgments are bigoted and cruel, while others think that he has made meaningful contributions to the nation and deserves to be recognized. The Poly understands this is a complicated issue and our staff has no unified opinion on the matter, but we have noticed something missing amongst all of this Scalia discussion: Why has the RPI administration not released anything official in regard to this controversy? No formal statement has been presented by the administration—either speaking for or against the decision. The administration made the decision to honor Scalia at this year’s graduation ceremony, and now is the time for them to speak out as to why.
The administration has claimed to be expanding their lines of communication to be more accessible to students. To some extent, they have acted on these claims. Vice President of Student Life Timothy Sams has been holding open office hours, and Student Life has started a “Just Ask” campaign. In addition, The Poly staff enjoyed the open forum the Senate held that featured discussion with Dean of Students Mark Smith over the recent Handbook changes. Whereas the year’s previous Student Handbook changes were enacted without much conversation between the students and the Dean of Students Office, this year’s forum was a step in the right direction. However, these channels are not enough. When students present a significant concern, the administration should respond quickly; at the very least they should acknowledge the students’ unrest. Discussion between the students and the administration has always been of significant concern, and The Poly always hopes for improved information flow from administrators.