Lavabit founder talks about privacy

From August 7–10, Las Vegas hosted Jeff Moss’s internationally known Black Hat
Convention for computer security professionals as well as the 22nd annual DEF CON gathering, attended by hackers worldwide. I was among the many thousands of participants at DEF CON and the following is an interview with Ladar Levison, founder and CEO of Lavabit, which gained national recognition when he shut down his company to prevent the government from gaining access to his customer’s encrypted email.

Maxwell Schmitt: So you’ve been working towards citizen privacy with Dark Mail, right?

Ladar Levison: Yep.

M.S.: What spurred you on the path—when exactly did you find your interest in computers and privacy?

L.L.: I’ve been working with computers since I was probably six or seven years old. My first computer was a 386 SX 16—so if that dates me, I apologize.

M.S.: That’s fine.

L.L.: I’ve been developing for the Internet since the web came about in the early 90s, so I’ve always had that interest—I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so that’s what spurred my interest in creating an online business. And email just seemed like a good candidate. I was spurred to enter that particular market April 1, 2004 when Google announced Gmail—for free personal email accounts with large storage quotas (1 GB at the time) and I thought hey, that’s a good idea; storage is cheap, and it’s only getting cheaper. Why not make my own free email service? And as such, Nerdshack was born. And it became sensitive to the issues that were facing the service providers. Then I became aware of sort of everything that was going on and the privacy implications of it. Part of the reason I started Nerdshack was I liked the idea of Gmail, but I didn’t like Google’s policy of profiling your email for advertising purposes.

M.S.: Which I believe they still do today, correct?

L.L.: Correct. So, I wanted to create a service that I would be comfortable using. And since I aim for privacy, I expect it, I desire it, I pay for it, I bought it. I decided I should strive to start a service that would be [something I would want]. And like I said, over the ensuing year I became very in-tune with the government client implications on privacy for a service provider. At the time, the issue that made headlines in 2004 that I caught wind of were national security letters. I was basically afraid at the time that a national security letter which did not require a judge’s signature and no judicial oversight would put me into a situation where I would go jail for violating the constitution. And I was afraid that I would to jail. So, my secure storage feature and my policy of not keeping meta data logs and not collecting information I did not have a technological need from my users that developed as a result.

M.S.: I’ve read some past interviews about Nerdshack, and I have to ask: as technology and privacy have evolved, do you think that the federal government is taking steps in the correct direction that is beneficial, and do you think that can coexist with fighting terrorism?

L.L.: Yes, I think it’s possible to fight terrorism without sacrificing privacy on a massive scale. Everybody forgets that even before 9/11 when the national security agency was not conducting whole sale or mass surveillance operations, we still had intelligence on the 9/11 hijackers and because of bureaucratic inefficiencies—too much information, too much paperwork, too many things getting buried—that we lost track of those particular terrorists after they entered the United States. I find confusing when someone says that we need more information to fight terrorism, rather than less. But, they couldn’t accurately more efficiently more effectively deal with the information they were getting before.

M.S.: You said that Federal Agents essentially tried to monitor and analyze your traffic and protected webmailwithout reaching over boundaries, what was that likedid it give you any insight into how the federal government is handling private industries and date? Was it like peering down the rabbit hole?

L.L.: It was certainly a little like peering down the rabbit hole. You’re given this perception of how you think our government works, how our criminal justice system works, what rights we’re supposed to have guaranteed by our Constitution, such as the right to free speech, the right to privacy, the right to due process, to face your accuser, to protect yourself from self-incrimination. You know all of these rights that we’re taught are so fundamental to freedom and our way of life here in America at a very young age, and all of these things that you thought that we’re supposed to have, have vanished, and you’re left there dumbfounded as to how this could of happened.

M.S.: OK, then Lavabit and its intrusion of both your and your consumer’s privacy must have been scary, a confirmation of your fears.

L.L.: I had been afraid for years that I might be made to modify the code so that I could log out the encryption key for the password of a particular user, thereby circumventing the protections I had built, but I thought if it was going to happen in court, it would happen in public, and was more worried that it would be a result of congressional legislation. I never thought that they’d demand my SSL key in secret, gag me, and then make me spy on all 410,000 people.

M.S.: I remember reading that you offered to add code to log the metadata, did that ever get added?

L.L.: What’s important is that for the first two, three weeks plus, I thought that they were going after everything, quite specifically passwords, and when I read the original order and looked up the statues that it referenced and it required signaling information. In 1970, signaling refers to phone numbers, and it wasn’t until I got a lawyer after two, three weeks, and we talked to someone from the assistant US District Attorney’s that they were only going after metadata. It comes down to: do you really believe the FBI agents? And do you take the other circumstantial evidence? Because I’m pretty sure they were going to collect more than metadata. And I do think that the metadata was a pretext to get the SSL key, or do you trust the attorneys who maintained at least in court that all they were trying to collect was metadata because that was all they could legally obtain. And once that clarification was made, I offered to modify essentially to create to log out just the metadata they were allowed to collect on just the users they were allowed to collect it from. I felt this was the lesser of two evils: between shutting down the system, letting them spy on everyone, or giving them metadata on a handful of users. They refused my offer.

M.S.: And, on that note, without violating any court orders, can you tell us how the battle to save Lavabit is currently doing?

L.L.: It’s over. The court came back and ignored my appeal, and justified not addressing the questions I raised because of a procedural technicality and because they felt I had been dealt “fair justice.” The Supreme Court has a strong tradition of not hearing cases dismissed on procedural grounds. Asking my community to help fund a Supreme Court appeal seems unwise knowing what I know.

M.S.: I have to say, I admired the fact that you gave them the SSL keys over 11 pages in size four font.

L.L.: In those hearings, that it was just information and I think it’s becoming quite clear that encryption can translate ones and zeros in property, I thought if all they want is information then I should be able to print it out and turn it over to them. I really expected them to transcribe the printouts and come at me guns blazing for almost a month and a half at that point, forcing me to fly on a moment’s notice to DC and represent myself because I didn’t have time to find a second lawyer to replace my first one who was legally allowed to represent me there; you know it was quite the ridiculous chain of events. So, I assumed that they were so desperate to get these keys that they would simply transcribe them. And from my perspective, it was really intended as giving me the time I needed to execute my shutdown plan. I was originally subpoenaed and I received that subpoena the day I was given the notice to appear. And I had to show up at the federal court house with those keys in hand because the subpoena demanded them. And I wanted a way to transporting those keys with me through TSA without them leaving my control. You know that you can’t bring any kind of electronic device into a federal courthouse these days. So, the only way that I can ensure that these unencrypted keys remained safe until I turned them over was to print them and put them into a sealed envelope.

M.S.: So I understand that you’ve transitioned into Dark Mail or, as you’ve renamed it, DIME?

L.L.: Dark Mail is the nickname, and DIME stands for Dark Internet Messaging Environment, and it’s really the official name for the protocols and specifications.

M.S.: Can you briefly explain how Dark Mail works?

L.L.: We integrate the elements necessary for an end-to-end encrypted mail system directly into the protocols themselves, which allows clients, and servers to facilitate the exchange of end to end encrypted messages.

M.S.: My final question: We’ve seen great things from college students, I’m thinking of the Vietnam War protests. What do you think students at colleges, especially at technical ones such as RPI, should be doing to aid the cause of electronic privacy?

L.L.: That’s an excellent question. Our generation is the Facebook generation—we are the generation who are the most affected by this loss of privacy. We are the group of people who share things electronically, we meet our spouses over the internet—we attend conferences virtually, so for us, this loss of digital privacy is so much more nascent that the generation is just getting used to the concept of a smartphone. It’s up to our generation to get them interested to help them understand why this is important, because without them then we won’t be able to work to reverse this trend. Because that generation still holds all the cards, all the power.

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RPI Football prepares for 2014 season

Engineers will play Alfred University in home opener this weekend following road win

This past Saturday, Rensselaer football opened its season at Norwich University in northern Vermont. Though RPI’s offense played well, it was the defense that set the tone, keeping the Cadets out of the end zone until the game was well out of reach in the fourth quarter. The final score: Engineers 29, Cadets 9.

With the dawn of a new season, RPI looks to improve upon its modest 2013 record of 5-5. One of the most important aspects in the team’s improvement will be replacing last year’s senior class. Among those offensive players who graduated were quarterbacks Brendan McGlynn ’14 and Jessie Maynard ’14, who combined for 927 passing yards and 482 rushing yards, running back Andrew Armato ’14, who served as the team’s featured halfback last season and compiled 532 yards on 118 carries, co-captain Joe Cozzolino ’14, who caught 30 passes for 465 yards last year, and linemen Joe Luks ’14, Scott Egglinger ’14, and Mike Burke ’14, who all started or played a part in nearly every game the past two seasons.

This season, these players will be replaced by an influx of returning upperclassmen. At quarterback, junior Jeff Avery will lead the offensive attack. Last season, Avery started five games and threw for 471 yards and three touchdowns, including a 167-yard, two-touchdown effort against Castleton State College. A committee of running backs will carry the football this season. Graduate student Reggie Colas, who played wide receiver during his first three seasons on the team and didn’t play last year, will now be playing running back. The speed and agility he showed as a wide receiver and kick returner will no doubt allow him to bolster RPI’s backfield. In addition, junior Matt Lane returns from a solid 2013 campaign in which he posted 205 yards rushing on 41 carries, as well as 13 receptions for 117 yards. Junior fullback Nick Schlatz will also play a significant role in the team’s rushing offense. Last year, he ranked second in rushing yards (288) and first in touchdowns (5). Lastly, junior Austin Amery will be a factor as well. Last season, in addition to compiling a team high 245 kick return yards, Amery also rushed 21 times for 97 yards and a touchdown.

The Engineers’ receiving core returns both of its key components from last season. Junior Logan Gaddar caught 24 passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns, including two in a high-scoring game against Springfield College. Junior Pat Hogan added 16 catches for 249 yards and four touchdowns. As Rensselaer’s offense has a run-first, pass-second mindset, Gaddar, Hogan, Cozzolino, and Lane accounted for more than 80 percent of the receptions made during the 2013 season. The question, then, is who will step up at tight end? Last Saturday, it was Senior Kyle Hash, who made his first career start against Norwich.

Of course, the true gauge of how well a team will do offensively is the strength of its blocking. Though it lost two of its starters, RPI’s offensive line retained starters junior right guard Seth Stauble, senior left guard Jay Yaskanich, and sophomore center Steve Mills. In addition, junior Ken Berryhill, made the start at left tackle, and junior Scott Davis Jr., made the start at right tackle. In its opening game, RPI’s offensive line played well, creating space for Engineer rushers, who combined for 153 yards rushing.

RPI graduated or lost several key players on the defensive side of the ball as well. Ted Abriel ’14, who played nose tackle and defensive end, co-captain, and player of the year last season graduated this past spring. In his senior season, he was second on the team in tackles (76) and first on the team in sacks (6). In addition, RPI’s defensive line also lost Arthur Kuyan ’14, who tallied 43 tackles and five sacks his senior season, and senior Dan Sugrue, who made 16 tackles last season. The linebacker unit retains all of its members except outside linebacker Matt Brown ’14, who recorded 25 tackles last year. In addition, sophomore defensive back Kenneth Chen, who tallied 27 tackles and an interception his freshman season.

Returning defensive linemen are senior Chris Ohnsman, who made 34 tackles last season at nose tackle, senior Andre Lussier, who made six tackles during his junior campaign, and sophomore Malik Joseph, who made 28 tackles, 14 for a loss, during his freshman season. At outside linebacker, senior Kyle McGovern filled in as the opening day starter to replace Brown. Last season, McGovern played all 10 games as a defensive back and made four tackles. Junior Mark Grimes returns from a sophomore season in which he compiled 53 tackles and an interception. Junior Anthony Pilla and senior Colby Tragni both start for the second year in a row. Last year, each recorded 53 tackles as well (tied-fourth on the team with Grimes). In addition, junior Brandon Cook also returns from a tremendous sophomore campaign. Last season, he led the team in tackles with 77, and received All-Liberty League Honorable Mention status.

At defensive back, RPI returns four experienced players to its starting lineup. At cornerback, sophomore Ryan Buss returns from a solid freshman season in which he made 20 tackles and two interceptions, including an important one against Union College in the Engineers’ own end zone to prevent a Union score. Junior Philip Lanieri III, will start at cornerback, as well. In 2013, he led the team in interceptions (4) and made 44 tackles. Senior Connor Young will start at free safety. Last year, he broke up a team high eight passes and recorded 23 tackles. Finally, the team’s defensive player of the year in 2013, senior Nick Borkowski will return at short safety. Last season, he received All-Liberty League First Team honors, recording 62 tackles and two interceptions.

In addition to these players, RPI football welcomed 40-plus freshmen to its varsity and junior varsity squads this offseason, all of whom were highly accomplished players in high school.

The Engineers will face Alfred University in their season opener this Saturday at noon at the East Campus Stadium.

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Hockey fans show enthusiasm for upcoming season

With the promise of a strong season, hockey enthusiasts wait weeks for season tickets

HOCKEY LINE HEADS for the Houston Field House to buy season tickets for the RPI Hockey season.

The 41st Hockey Line ended Tuesday, September 9. Hockey Line, an RPI tradition organized by the Grand Marshal, is when students wait in line to buy seasons tickets. In 1985, one group started waiting in line right after RPI won the national championship. Part of the reason for this line was that pillars obstructed the view of many of the seats before the Houston Field House was redone. This year, Hockey Line started early; the rules were available before classes started, and the countdown clock counting the days, minutes, and seconds until seasons tickets go on sale was hung on the Rensselaer Union during the first week of classes. Participants lined up on the Rensselaer Union patio and had to have at least one person present from 8 am–9 pm to keep their place in line. The winning group was Red Army.

On Monday, September 8, Miracle was also shown on a giant screen over the Rensselaer Union green roof. Members of fraternities, sororities, deans, and students were able to talk with Men’s hockey Coach Seth Appert about the upcoming season.

This year, the team will have four goalies. The fourth goalie is Sam Goodman ’16, who played with the Club Hockey Team and practiced with the varsity team. Appert editorialized: “He’s a fantastic young man, a great representative of our program, and he has worked his tail off.” Freshmen additions to this year’s roster include: Mike Prapavessis ’18 (D)—drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, and Lou Nanne ’18 (F)—drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Seth Appert said, speaking about the Union College NCAA win: “I don’t want to say I was happy for them, but I was happy for our league.” The schools in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, which Appert says “have the best student athletes, have the kind of kids that have

the grades you need to go to these schools,” has become, “the best league in college hockey. Except for Clarkson … They’re certainly not near us in engineering, their graduates are just lucky to get jobs.” Appert said, “A little bit of hatred in sports is a good thing as long as there is respect that goes along with it.”

On Monday night, teams participating in Hockey Line had to have one member sleep over. At 7 am on Tuesday, Appert and Women’s Head Coach John Burke brought Hockey Line participants doughnuts. Beginning Tuesday afternoon, games and performances were held on the Rensselaer Union Patio. Duly Noted and Juggling Club were among the performers.

Red Army came in first, followed by Lamba Chi Alpha, Delta Phi, Sigma Chi, and other groups. Red Army members included Stephen Browne ’15, Larenz Devaren ’17, Sam Keller ’16, Matthew Lynch ’17, Jasmine Mullins ’15, and Matthew Pack ’17. Keller said that Red Army had shifts to keep their place in line. Red Army is different from the other groups present in that any student could get tickets through them. Keller felt it was great to help “super big fans” get their seasons tickets. Red Army also held a barbecue for students during the remaining couple hours before the march up to the Field House.

Around a hundred people marched up to the Field House to buy seasons tickets. The marching line was headed by Grand Marshal Kyle Keraga ’15, President of the Union Erin Amarello ’15, and Student Activities Director Cameron McLean. The march route went through Freshmen Hill, through the Commons parking lot, and up Burdett Avenue. Cars driving by stopped and waved or honked. RPI Ambulance and Puckman drove up Burdett in a van ahead of the marchers. When the march arrived at the Field House, the Pep Band started playing songs, including the Alma Mater. Hockey Line participants were allowed to buy their tickets in groups of five. Members of both the women’s and men’s hockey teams gave out free pizza and ice cream. Starting at 8 pm, open skate took place on the rink. Rental skates were provided for free to students.

Seasons tickets can still be bought. Appert said, “The more students we get to buy season tickets, the more students we spread the word to … the more school spirit we have, the more fun it is for everybody.”

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The nature of rush and purpose of fraternities

In light of the recent developments in our front page article this week, I would like to outline the ideal nature of Greek recruitment and comment generally on the purpose of Greek life. Full disclosure, I should mention that I am a Sigma Chi and have no first-hand experience with any wet recruitment event.

Rush season is a time in which Greek organizations and potential recruits have two short weeks to decide whether to enter into a lifelong relationship. At a recruitment event, a fraternity is attempting to display to the potential recruits what makes their organization worthy of their investment, and why an organization should invest in a potential recruit. It’s a rather whirlwind experience for both parties. First impressions have profound impacts.

Usually, it’s a rather chance event that causes someone to first appear at a fraternity house. Often, a friend will bring them, or a chance encounter with a brother will stick in their mind, as was the case for me. First impressions of the fraternity by potential recruits usually include how much fun the organization is to be a part of, how it functions as a club. It’s a place to go for entertainment, for sports, and for food. This is what brings potential recruits to the organization, but they won’t stay long if this is all they come for.

Potential recruits then likely begin to notice the relationship that all brothers share, that of brotherhood. This is what keeps potential recruits coming back, and makes them take the possibility of membership more seriously. Potential recruits see the way brothers interact, and recognize it as being different from ordinary interactions between people. Maybe it’s a deep, meaningful conversation that a potential recruit has with a brother that shows them that they could enter this relationship. Brotherhood should be the most important attribute for a Greek organization in attracting potential recruits.

Potential recruits could also be attracted to other facets, such as philanthropy, or academic achievement. Maybe they’re a legacy, meaning one or both of their parents were Greek. Maybe they’re looking toward the future and thinking about how joining this organization may help their career and post-college life. A strong alumni relationship will certainly help those with high professional aspirations. Maybe saving thousands of dollars on room and board charges by living in-house sophomore year is in the back of the minds of potential recruits. Certainly, the decision to join a Greek organization isn’t without self-interest.

However, when it comes to less commendable desires, a Greek organization must be vigilant. No fraternity should be interested in initiating any person whose motive for joining is to obtain alcohol. The consequences of doing so are dire. These people ruin organizations. The entire Greek community suffers from the inclusion of people who are not interested in upholding the standards and obligations they bind themselves to during initiation. As Sigma Chi Founder Isaac M. Jordan once wisely delivered, “The amount of mischief which one abandoned and dissolute young man can do is incalculable; he destroys everything around him; avoid him as you would a pestilence. One drop of poison will defile the purest spring. Avoid by all means the poison, the virus, the hemlock of bad associations.”

From the other perspective, alcohol distorts the perception a potential recruit has of a fraternity. The draw of alcohol may temporarily be more powerful than that of more worthy reasons for joining a fraternity. This can tragically result in a brother finding themselves in a less-than-reputable organization, having squandered the opportunity to join one they would be more satisfied with.

It is for these reasons that alcohol has no place in the recruitment process. It is for these reasons that the Interfraternity Council has rules that prohibit alcohol during recruitment. These rules are wise to be followed, and it’s a mutual effort. It’s the responsibility of the organization to not offer alcohol to protect themselves from unworthy potential recruits and to protect others from making regrettable decisions. It’s the responsibility of the potential recruits to not accept alcohol and to avoid organizations that do, to protect themselves from making regrettable decisions and to protect the fraternities from unworthy potential recruits. I ask anyone in a Greek organization to look back to the words of their founders, as I have, and consider how their behavior now compares to the original intentions of their founders.

I recognize that formal recruitment for sororities is entirely different from that of fraternities. Formal recruitment for sororities is a much more abbreviated, tightly controlled process. There is little to no opportunity for sororities to offer alcohol to any potential recruits during their recruitment process due to the plethora of rules in place regulating recruitment for sororities. However, I can only hope that women are still receiving the same opportunity to make a well-thought, educated decision regarding which organization they wish to join, considering the short duration of allotted contact time before bid day.

It can, and should, be recognized during the potential recruitment process that most Greek organizations do host events outside of recruitment where alcohol is served. It isn’t a topic to be ashamed of, or to be avoided. Potential recruits must be aware of what they’re considering to enter. Though it shouldn’t be a centerpiece, anyone accepting a bid should have had a short discussion with a brother about the role of alcohol in the fraternity, along with all other aspects of fraternal life.

After recruitment ends, the mutual responsibilities for both pledges and fraternities do not end, but rather grow in magnitude. The specter of hazing still lingers over the Greek community, a haunting from years past where it was once believed that fraternal bonds could be best forged under life-and-death situations replicating those of the civil war. This unwise conceptualization of fraternity has since been recognized as such, and it has become the life’s work of many great people to eradicate it from the Greek community, such as Michael A. Greenberg, current Grand Consul of Sigma Chi. The use of alcohol in hazing is a deplorable practice, in a similar way that it is deplorable during recruitment. Apart from presenting obvious existential dangers to both pledges and fraternities, using alcohol for hazing erodes the value of the relationship between the pledge and the fraternity. Each fraternity has only one chance to prepare their pledges for the all-important moment of initiation, a moment of life-changing implications for everyone involved. The pledge has the opportunity to learn and grow tremendously from the experience both leading up to and during initiation, an opportunity which is ruined by hazing.

A fraternity is a network, a group to rely upon for friendship, comfort, assistance in times of need, and enjoyment. The network will also rely upon its individual members to reciprocate these qualities. A fraternity is a place to call home, a place to feel safe and loved. A fraternity is a place to build one’s self, to learn redeeming qualities, to find mentors, and to develop into a respectable adult. A fraternity is an order of gentlemen, among the most honorable of college-educated people. It’s a wonderful experience to be a member of an organization that I love so deeply. It is my hope that others have a great experience as I have, and that their organizations do not participate in wet rushing and hazing to demean that experience.

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Unique comedy show

Awkward humor done right

THIS POSTER CREATED for the show was intended for people to deface, in order for Nathan Fielder to catch the vandal in the act and tell their parents what they did.

I find it difficult to easily explain this show, how it works, and its classification. It’s part documentary, parody, and reality TV show, but most importantly, at its core, the most awkward and hilarious television show I’ve seen. Most would find that hard to believe, but I’ve sat through both the American and UK versions of The Office, and I can easily say, this has better awkward humor. To get to the core of my reasoning, I’ll have to explain it a bit more.

The show is like Kitchen Nightmare; an expert in business, host Nathan Fielder, comes to a business to either fix its failing business model or get more customers. However, the businesses featured on the show are unaware that not only is Fielder a comedian, but also not an expert who is helping their business either. When described to me, I found the idea of the show almost cruel, tricking people into having their businesses ruined. However, this show is not like that at all to my pleasant surprise, Fielder comes to these businesses with simple ideas and allows the concept to evolve and reflect almost entirely on his character, who acts as someone who is petty, self absorbed, arrogant, and lonely. That’s what makes the show incredibly funny. Fielder’s dry and superior persona is awkward in the best way. I found myself cringe and turn away during certain parts of The Office, especially during the specific episode “Scott’s Tots.” While hilarious, it’s almost hard to watch because of how painfully uncomfortable it is to even be a viewer of the train wrecks Michael Scott gets into. Even though The Office is all actors and Nathan For You has real business owners, I find Fielder easier to watch. Scott and the character Fielder share all the traits listed prior, their pettiness, self absorption, arrogance, and loneliness are their most obvious traits. However, The Office tends to drag the viewer into the awkwardness of any situation, by having characters give their reaction to the camera after something terrible happens. On the other hand, Fielder puts all the embarrassment on himself, he always takes the blame either from customers or the business owner. It’s a different dynamic where even though Fielder does more awkward actions, like creating a Bachelor-esque show so he can date 10 women at once, the viewer doesn’t feel any second-hand awkwardness.

In fact, the things Fielder does on the show and how he enacts them is my favorite part of the program. As an example, I’ll use my now favorite episode of television from the series as an example, “Dumb Starbucks.” In this episode, Fielder tries to help a struggling coffee shop owner by turning the store into a parody Starbucks. However, after the owner starts to stop supporting Fielder, he hires a lawyer to give him full control of the parody Starbucks idea. Fielder then opens a “Dumb Starbucks” to massive reception, with many people thinking it was an art installation by Banksy, receiving global news attention. Watching Fielder’s character being puffed up by the media surrounding Dumb Starbucks is hilarious, as well as people’s reactions before learning Fielder was the owner. This show’s humor and style is something I haven’t seen in a show before, and its execution is excellent.

Despite the high praise I give the show, its viewership is sadly low, especially for a program so original and funny. However, as a word of warning, the show, and its host Fielder, are very awkward. While this may dissuade many people, I would still suggest giving the show a shot since it’s a unique series that I have not found an equal for.

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Field Hockey loses home-opener to Lyons

SOPHOMORE MIFIELDER KATRINA MCLEOD OUTPACES a Mount Holyoke player in the Engineers 3-1 loss against the Lyons at Harkness Field.

On Saturday, September 6, RPI field hockey hosted Mount Holyoke in its first home game of the season. During the opening 10 minutes of the contest, the Engineers held off a persistent Lyon attack. Holyoke fired four shots off of penalty corners, one that was saved skillfully by Rensselaer freshman goalie Hilary Fiorentino ’18, and another that was blocked by an RPI defender.

Then RPI moved the ball down the field and commenced their own onslaught on the Lyon goal. After, two shots were turned away by Holyoke, RPI freshman forward Jena Nawfel scored in the 15th minute (her first collegiate score) to give the Engineers a 1-0 lead. Sophomore midfielder Colleen Morris assisted the goal.

But, Holyoke dominated the action the rest of the first half. In the 23rd minute, Holyoke midfielder Kirsten Kilburn, scored unassisted, gathering her own miss and rifling a shot past Fiorentino to tie the game at one. Then, a minute later, Holyoke goalie Liz Decesare stopped two shots on goal in a span of eight seconds to maintain the tie. Later, in the 34th minute, Lyon forward Julia Bell scored a goal of her own on a defender, Allison Slysz assist. With mere seconds remaining in the first half, RPI junior midfielder Celia D’Agostino attempted to tie the score, but was turned away, and the half ended with Holyoke leading 2-1.

In the 49th minute, Lyon forward Charlotte Wagner, deftly evaded an Engineer defender and fired the ball into back of the net to give Holyoke a 3-1 lead. In the final 20 minutes, RPI defended its own net valiantly, with Fiorentino making four saves. But RPI’s offense failed to ignite and the game ended 3-1 in favor of Holyoke.

With the win, the Lyons improve to 3-0 on the season while the Engineers fall to 1-2. This Sunday, RPI will travel west to Rochester, NY to take on St. John Fisher in its final non-league game before conference play begins.

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Senate strengthens ties within Troy area

Schweitzer named Community Relations Committee chair; GrubHub assistance considered

MORGAN SCHWEITZER APPEALS for the re-creation of Community Relations Committee, left. Troy business improvement District’s Erin Pihlaja talks about her hopes for the upcoming year, right.

On Monday, September 8, the Student Senate convened at their weekly meeting to discuss the goings-on at RPI and how they, the student’s elected representatives, should take action. The meeting immediately began with a motion to reestablish the Community Relations Committee. This committee has not been in session since Grand Marshal Lee ’12, but according to Morgan Schweitzer ’16, there has been resurgence by the RPI community. Schweitzer took the floor to explain the history behind this project and general information about its purpose.

In recent times, Schweitzer stated that there has been a disconnect between both faculty and students on RPI’s campus and Troy and its college community. To help bridge this subpar support, Schweitzer believes that a partnership between the students of Troy and the city’s officials will help to mutually meet the groups’ goals. After meeting with Troy’s Business Improvement District office, Schweitzer found several solutions to the problem at hand, most of which centered around increased communication between the proposed committee and Troy. Via this communication, the amount of community service that was offered by the school would be streamlined, more consistent, and maybe even increased. Schweitzer hoped to keep a database in which the names of individuals and organizations could be kept who would like to volunteer for local service. In this manner, a two-way path of communication could be kept between both the volunteers and those who would request their services. Messages would be able to go directly from administrative offices in Troy to those interested in community service. This database would also be open to the RPI public for any groups or clubs that are looking for similar help. In addition, Schweitzer would also like the committee to organize a day in which a large community of RPI would help Troy en masse with a larger project. This would be both a symbolic and practical gesture of mutual assistance. All of the committee’s work would try to line up with Troy’s comprehensive plan for self-improvement and development.

The committee would be ad hoc and be reviewed at the end of the year, sometime in the spring. The committee would then be assessed and voted on to decide its future as a permanent committee or not. This group would contain delegates Troy for formal discussion to inform each other on progress made, the results of which would be reported during the committee’s weekly meeting.

Schweitzer reported that she has heard positive feedback for the possibility of this group and has at least six confirmed members should the motion pass. To increase membership, Schweitzer suggests the use of heavy advertising through flyers, social media, and general campus informing. Upon being questioned by Alexandra Rindone ’15, Schweitzer stated that the group would differ from other community service groups by using streamlined communication to reach out to students to put on larger and more impactful events with the city of Troy. The Senate passed the motion to create the Community Relations Committee with a vote of 17-0-0. A motion was soon put the floor that would make Schweitzer the chair of the committee which passed with a vote of 16-0-1.

The Senate then informally discussed the idea of allowing the food ordering company GrubHub to advertise and promote their services to the student body through an event on campus. The majority of the Senate believed that the service would provide a mutual benefit for the students of RPI and the people of Troy, as the application would be able to better inform students about various, off-campus food options. In addition, the event would only take up a 1,600 square foot spot outside. However, the Senate held off on voting to do more research to determine if the advertising event would be infringing on the school’s existing contract with Sodexo.

The floor was then given to the Associate Dean of Off-Campus Commons Cary Dresher and Executive Director for the Troy BID Erin Pihlaja. The duo was able to fill in the Senate and general audience about the progress that Troy has made in the past, and where they aim to go with the help of the newly founded Community Relations Committee. Because of their involvement with the city of Troy, both Dresher and Pihlaja have high hopes that the CRC could start a radical change in the student body. Pihlaja stated that ways the committee could start would be in public art projects. By detailing the city’s latest project, Pihlaja revealed that the TroyBot mural has become a large hit with the people of Troy. This work was done by first-year RPI students in their involvement of Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond. While along those lines, she also stated that the city would love to see more projects like Welcome Fest that directly involve the RPI community. She encourages student attendance at events like the Victorian Stroll, River Street Arts Fest, and Troy Night Out, the latter occurring on September 26.

The approval of the last week’s meeting was delayed until the meeting on September 15 in order to accommodate technical difficulties.

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Shift of power within NBA

With this year’s long list of free agent signings and trades, the balance of power in the National Basketball Association has shifted dramatically. Lebron James decided to return home by re-signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs then added 19 point-per-game, 12 rebound-per-game superstar Kevin Love in a three-team trade which sent the Cavs most recent number one pick, Andrew Wiggins of Kansas, to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Chicago Bulls signed versatile big man Pau Gasol to add to their already highly talented team. Though not a free agent signing, it is also important to note that Derrick Rose has healed well and made a successful return to competitive basketball in the International Basketball Federation World Cup this summer. His value to the Bulls cannot be understated. Without Rose, the Bulls are an average playoff team. With him, they are a title contender.

On the flip side, the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers lost out this offseason. Just as Houston seemed poised to sign Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat were able to resign him a maximum contract offer of $118 million over five years. Then for whatever strange reason, the Rockets decided not to match the Dallas Mavericks offer to Chandler Parsons, and thus handed their best shooter to their cross-state rival. Even landing Trevor Ariza from Washington in a three-team trade probably won’t help the Rockets as much as a premium shooter like Parsons would’ve. Indiana failed to resign Lance Stephenson, who signed with Charlotte. Furthermore, a gruesome injury to Paul George in the FIBA World Cup means the Pacers will also be without their best player for most, if not all, of the upcoming season.

The shift in personnel has affected most teams, but not the San Antonio Spurs. They remain the best team in the league. Most years, they easily coast into the later stages of the Western Conference playoffs, but the hype is always about another team. Last year, experts spoke of San Antonio’s quiet regular season run to the best record in the west. On the flip side, a Miami Heat team that did very little to improve, besides Norris Cole, and took advantage of a once again weak Eastern Conference, continued to receive the majority of the hype. Then, when it came time for the NBA Finals rematch, the Spurs unleashed a brilliantly efficient offensive and defensive onslaught that left the Big Three and company despondent. In the end, the Spurs won the series 4-1, with each win by a margin of 15 or more points. Furthermore, it wasn’t one of the Spurs three future hall-of-famers that won the Finals Most Valuable Player Award. That honor went to the humble and soft-spoken Kawhi Leonard, another player who makes a strong case for the label of “superstar.”

Yet, in spite of the Spurs’ success, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers are the teams to watch out for this upcoming season. Not that this inequity is surprising. The Thunder has the reigning MVP and arguably the best scorer in the league, Kevin Durant, and the explosive Russell Westbrook. The Clippers are known as “Lob City” for the array of alley-oop dunks they make during their games. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have their own commercials. In addition, the Clippers were given widespread media coverage this past spring for the comments of former owner Donald Sterling. Both teams are young and exciting. The Spurs are more experienced. Their leaders, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, are all relatively quiet, modest people. Sometimes they perform so seamlessly, it becomes almost boring to watch. But, being cultural icons doesn’t matter to them. They simply want to win. This is what they’ve done, and will do, every single year, championship or not. Of course, the questions about the age and health of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will linger until the day they retire. But as long as they and Tony Parker are healthy and want to continue playing, the Spurs will be the best team around, and the least advertised, at least among quality teams.

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Sustainability

Bikes for Africa

BICYCLES FOR HUMANITY AND FIJI WILL COLLECT bicycles to donate to South Africa on September 17 and 18.

Bicycles for Humanity is a pure grassroots movement that was started eight years ago by a couple trying to solve the problem in Namibia of healthcare workers with AIDS, having to walk to take care of those sicker than themselves. Now, B4H comprises over 50 chapters, and has sent 75,000 bicycles to developing parts of Africa. These bicycles are sent to empower people in the developing world by helping solve the basic problem of mobility. A bicycle allows a healthcare worker to visit four to five times the number of patients in a day. It allows for mothers to bring drinking water home and bring her goods to market, and aids children in traveling to school. Bikes can cut travel time from one hour to 20 minutes, and can allow people to carry four times more weight. Best of all—the majority of these bikes were otherwise destined to rust in a landfill. Each year, over 10 million usable bikes make it to the landfill.

B4H sends the bikes to countries in need via a shipping container. Each container can contain between 450–500 bikes. Upon arrival, the container is transformed to a Bicycle Empowerment Center. These BECs are fully loaded with bikes, spare parts, tools, and comprehensive material on bike maintenance. They are designed to empower people and their communities with transportation and the means to maintain it. Some shipping containers go even further than becoming a bike shop. To further empower the people with education and the means to collect data to further their health care and business opportunities, tablets and docking stations can be added. These tablets have onboard educational software, and also enable access to the web.

RPI’s Tau Nu chapter of Phi Gamma Delta is partnering with the Adirondack chapter of B4H to help them send over 450 bikes to South Africa. FIJI will be collecting at the Rensselaer Union on Wednesday 9/17 from 12–6 pm and again at their new house, the former First Baptist Church, located at 82 3rd Street in downtown Troy on Thursday 9/18 from 4–7 pm. If anyone has a bike to donate, but cannot drop it off during these times, they can contact communityservice@taunufiji.com. More information on B4H can be found at bicycles-for-humanity.org.

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PSS: a single kick

LAST TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, RPI MEN’S SOCCER PLAYED its first home game against Richard Stockton College. In the first half, both teams had several chances to score. RPI goalie senior Rob Dewald saved three Stockton attempts in the first 26 minutes of play. The visiting squad’s aggression increased as the game wore on. Four Richard Stockton players received yellow cards for illegal challenges. In the second half, RPI intensified its defense, allowing only three shots (two wide, one blocked) the entire 45 minutes. Offensively, Stockton penalties allowed the Engineers a number of chances. In the 66th minute, a free kick by senior Matt Koziol snaked past the Stockton defense to give Rensselaer a 1-0 lead, which it held for the duration of the match. RPI will put its 3-0-1 record to the test on Wednesday, September 10 against Lyndon State College (Vt.) at ECAV Stadium.
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Women’s golf receives approved starter budget

Club travel budget lowered; Union website reviewed and food budgeting discussed

This past Thursday, President of the Union Erin Amarello ’15 conducted this year’s first Executive Board meeting. Topics on the agenda included: funding for the Women’s Golf Club, budgeting policies and guidelines for clubs (particularly where travel costs and food budgets were concerned), and the new Rensselaer Union website. The meeting concluded with Joe Cassidy’s director report and the PU’s final remarks.

Women’s Golf Club President Victoria Ruplin ’16 asked the E-board for $720 to cover the club’s expenses. However, members would still be required to pay dues. According to Ruplin, twenty women registered at the activities fair and the club has already had one outing to the green. Ruplin was also looking at having the club be more competitive by participating in tournaments, which cost $300 per eight person team. The usual start-up funding for a new club is $125; Eric Ray ‘14 compared golf to skiing, neither of which have facilities available at RPI. Ray noted that most starter budgets go towards supplies for the new club instead of towards facilities or other club costs. In a 13-0-0 vote, the motion was passed which allowed for the club to be given $720.

Next on the agenda was discussing the new Union website, presented by Jordan Simonds ’17. The current layout, according to Simonds, is outdated, slow, and hard to use. This new system is easy to navigate, search for specific clubs, and even supports mobile users. Before the website can be operational and live, content on RPI’s many clubs as well as the Union itself will need to be created and added. The E-Board discussed ways to allow certain people, such as officers of clubs, access to specific pages. No motion was passed on this subject.

After discussing the website, travel budgets for clubs and food expenses were discussed. The general guideline for clubs and travel costs is a 40/60 system: the union covers 40 percent of the travel costs and the club pays the other 60 percent. Last year, however, the Union covered 50 percent, yet this is not stated in the guidelines. Clubs bringing in a proposal before the E-Board would follow the guidelines, so Amarello wanted to make sure the E-Board thought about what they would do before proposals with travel were brought before the E-Board. The E-Board debated whether they should keep it at 50 percent, and make it clear, or go back to 40 percent as stated in the guidelines. A motion was passed to keep it at 40 percent.

Next on the agenda was the food policy. New for 2014-2015, clubs are only allowed to tap into food money once a semester, which is $2.50 per person. The original purpose of this was for clubs to be able to afford food in the fall for recruitment and food in the spring for an end-of-year celebration. However, according to Joyce Liu ’16, some clubs had been taking advantage of this by buying food for weekly meetings where only a few members of the club are present. Senate-Executive Board Liaison Shoshana Rubinstein ’16 said that perhaps not all clubs should be regulated the same way, noting that the E-Board had just approved a larger start-up budget than normal. When Amarello posed the example of the Players having a certain number of work parties in a semester with food provided, Ray said that perhaps if clubs planned it out and showed specific reasons, that would be all right. Graduate student Chaz Goodwine noted that certain clubs, such as the Players, The Poly, WRPI, RPI TV, and UPAC all had long work parties but had the capabilities to advertise, whether they did or not. Alex Glover ’15 suggested that perhaps a solution to concerns of only a few members getting food would be to have attendees sign a sheet saying they were present. Other E-Board members suggested some sort of application process if a club wanted to buy food more than once a semester. No decision has been made yet about what will be done.

The meeting concluded with the PU’s final remarks and the director’s report. Amarello advised that E-Board representatives talk to their clubs about weR Gold so clubs can get funding for big purchases. Cassidy ended the meeting by announcing the appointment of Joe Campo as the new associate director of the Union. Campo is currently assistant director of the Mueller Center.

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Top Hat

GM discusses off-campus, academic advice

Look within RPI and wider community for opportunities, prepare for upcoming career fair

Hello RPI. This week, the Student Senate had the pleasure of hosting Erin Pihlaja, executive director of the Troy Business Improvement District, and Cary Dresher, associate dean of the off campus commons. Both Pihlaja and Dresher were friendly speakers, and learning about all the opportunities that exist really spoke to the level of growth our community has seen, and how great a weekend destination Troy can be for Rensselaer students.

In my three years here, I’ve seen businesses open and grow, and new opportunities and events take hold that give students so many great opportunities to experience Troy and the surrounding Capital District. September 15–September 21 marks the second-ever Troy Restaurant Week, with numerous local restaurants offering amazing deals. If you have yet to experience Troy dining, or want to explore new tastes, this is the week to stop by and see what the city has to offer.

Beyond these events, there are still many opportunities to experience the Capital Region. The last Friday of every month marks Troy Night Out! This month’s TNO will be college night for RPI students—with the RPI shuttles running every hour to bring you to and from campus as needed. Additionally, CDTA busses offer free ridership to RPI students, and can give you quick transport to Crossgates Mall or downtown Albany.

Of course, amidst all these opportunities, remember to prioritize your academics. This is the part of the semester where we’ll really feel our workload—so remember to stay balanced and give yourself some time to breathe. Keep your stress levels low as you begin to take on assignments, quizzes, and exams. Your first wave of tests may seem intimidating, but with proper preparation, you’ll be able to tackle them readily, and even with confidence.

Don’t hesitate to form study groups with friends of your discipline when it’s allowed. Everyone comes here with a different set of personalities and natural aptitudes—you’ll very often find that they’ve already worked through some of your toughest problems. And with the commonality found in your subject area and mutual experience in your class, you’ll even have something to bond over. Sophomore year, my friends and I formed an Intro to Algorithms study group. Our collective effort and late nights studying, grappling for control over the radio, and creating our study-guide is still an occasional topic of conversation—and all of us have stayed in touch since.

And of course, office hours are an ever reliable source of support and advice—you’ll often find that concepts you had trouble picking up on during lecture will come easily to you in a one on one situation. Knowing your professors is also a gateway to future opportunities—they may offer you research positions if you’re interested in their field and if they’re impressed with your diligence and willingness to learn. Professors will also serve as excellent references when you begin to seek out career opportunities.

On that note, I also wanted to take a moment to remind everyone to sign up for the upcoming National Society of Black Engineers and Society of Hispanic Engineers Career Fair. As you may have heard, the career fair this fall will take place on September 26 and 27. While I know this is more than two weeks out, now is the time to begin to think about your career search—be it for a summer internship, a semester co-op, or like myself, the daunting quest for a full-time offer. Start to work on your resume—update your listings with any relevant info, contact any professors or previous employers who may serve as your references. Also remember to keep an eye out for any early opportunities to meet recruiting teams—many companies have already begun touring campuses and holding info sessions. These sessions are often a great gateway to the interview process.

If you have any questions about career opportunities, academics, or the City of Troy, you may contact me as always at gm@rpi.edu; or visit me at my open office hours, every Wednesday from noon—3 pm!

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In the Nation and the World

Ebola: Why the pandemic is worse than it may seem

THE EBOLA VIRUS HAS CAUSED widespread panic in its biggest outbreak since its discovery with around 1,850 reported deaths.

The Ebola Virus Disease outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013. Having spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, and Nigeria, the Ebola outbreak has so far around 1,850 deaths confirmed. Symptoms of the disease include fatigue, headaches, seizures, internal bleeding, and death. There are currently no vaccines for the Ebola virus. Treatment, which may increase the chance of survival, for the disease involves preventing dehydration, balancing body salts, maintaining oxygen status, blood pressure, and treating other infections should they occur. The chance of someone contracting the infection, however, is reduced because the symptoms occur very quickly; those infected would be too sick to board a plane going overseas. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently reported that the world is losing the battle against Ebola.

In affected areas, there is only one doctor for every 100,000 people. Hospitals are understaffed and underfunded. Moreover, women, who make up the bulk of care givers, constitute 75 percent of Ebola deaths. On August 26, the World Health Organization reported that 120 of the 240 health care workers affected by the pathogen have died. To exacerbate matters, an eclectic array of regional suspicions of the government and hospitals encourage people to deny the existence of the outbreak. Reliance on witchcraft, black magic, and local cultural practices such as relying on magical healers leads to further contamination in unsanitary environments. Body parts, for example, are removed from corpses and used in rituals. Some protestors, convinced that the disease is an artifice, have even attacked hospitals.

It’s no secret that western Africa suffers from extreme poverty. It is difficult to reach patients in remote villages spread over vast areas. Poorly maintained dirt roads, which present a logistical nightmare to international aid organizations, are a common sight. At the same time, the poor quality of roads slows down the spread of the disease over borders.

As mentioned earlier, distrust in the government is widespread. National efforts to educate the local populace are often met with protests and riots. Additionally, the general public does not have access to reliable sources about Ebola. Word of mouth, therefore, is how many people come to learn about ways to stay safe. According to the WHO, the fatality rate for Ebola is 52 percent. Previous outbreaks have much higher fatality rates.

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Derby

Strong student support for RPI sport teams

Weekend activities include UPAC cinema, comedy, painting, and dancing

Hey RPI!

I hope that everyone enjoyed the opening weekend of football! It is an exciting time for sports, both on- and off-campus. Football opened their season successfully with a win over Norwich University 29-9, men’s and women’s cross country placed second in Classic, and our men’s soccer team has remained un deleted ending their last game in a draw with State University of New York at Brockport. Get out there and continue to cheer on your friends and classmates this fall; all schedules can be found at http://www.rpiathletics.com. Also, while yesterday was the culmination of Hockey Line, the celebration at the Houston Field House was a blast. If you couldn’t attend, it was not your last chance to purchase season tickets. If you and your friends still want to cheer on the Engineers all season long, you can still go purchase tickets up at the Houston Field House from 10 am–3 pm.

Club officers, if you have any projects coming up for your club that you believe alumni would like to support, please take a look at the weR Gold application. This is a great way to fund capital projects or purchases for your club. In years past, alumni have been very generous in supporting clubs. Take advantage of this opportunity to spread the word about the amazing things your club has been up to and give alumni a great way to stay involved with the activities they loved while they were on campus or maybe to support something new. Applications are online at http://alumni.rpi.edu/weRGoldApp.

If you are looking for something fun to do later this week, the pub is hosting Painting at the Pub “Back-To-School Birches”, a step-by-step instructional art class, from 7–9 pm on Thursday. No artistic ability is needed and beginners are welcome! On Friday, our own Ballroom Club is hosting an Introduction to Ballroom! This event will guide you in the ways of the dance floor and introduce you to the members of the Ballroom Club at RPI. Also this weekend, UPAC Cinema presents Neighbors in DCC 308 at 7 pm, 9:30 pm, and midnight. Admission is only $2.50. It’s a great way to spend a calm Friday night. Finally, on Saturday, UPAC Comedy is hosting Sarah Tiana for their first comedy show of the year. This event will be hosted in Mother’s. If you bring your RPI ID your ticket is free!

Have a wonderful week everyone!

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Graduate Council

Town Hall Meeting

The Graduate Student Council will be having a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, September 10 at 5 pm in DCC 337. We invite all graduate students to participate and offer suggestions to what programming and needs our student body has. Help us, help you! Our guest speaker will be Dean Dunn from the Office of Graduate Education. He will be available to specifically address concerns regarding the graduate fee imposed this year. This is your chance to express how you feel, give feedback, and contribute to the conversation. Light refreshments will be served; we hope to see you there!

Other reminders: every Thursday is Grad Social Night, 4–9 pm, at the Clubhouse Pub. Show your student ID for 50 cents off drinks, and enter our raffle for free prizes!

As always, email us with questions, comments, or concerns at grad-council@rpi.edu.

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Hospitality Services to work with students

RPI HOSPITALITY SERVICES REVERSES policies that cause major outcry. Students were unhappy about the rumored removal of swipe sharing.

The week before school started, a Reddit post titled “Save Our Swipes—Hospitality says no more swiping other people in” reported that, “RAs were told this week that people are no longer allowed to swipe other people in on their meal plan,” regardless of whether they were on the meal plan or not. This decision however was reversed several days later, meaning that students can swipe guests in as they have in the past. Many students raised an outcry. Grand Marshal Kyle Keraga ’15 met with Hospitality Services to discuss these concerns. Based on student feedback, Hospitality decided to push back changes, and agreed to work with the Student Senate towards a compromise.

Speaking before the Student Senate during their general body meeting on August 25, Director of Auxiliary, Parking, and Transportation Services Alexandre da Silva said he wanted to emphasize that “No changes have been applied to current meal plan structure for academic year ’14/’15.” da Silva also said that he felt guest swipes as a whole were likely to stay, though controls might be added. “There is a lot of support to retaining guest privilege as part of Rensselaer’s meal plan structure. It brings about camaraderie, it adds value and no less … it supports the Rensselaer residential experience. We may see it evolve but I don’t see it going away in the future. We should see continued support towards guest privilege in the future, however adding reasonable administrative controls.”

When they had heard that guest swipes would no longer be offered, many students were upset. Jocelyn Griser ’16 said that she felt that guest swipes enable underclassmen to get to know upperclassmen better by swiping them in. According to Griser, “the upperclassmen got fed, and then the underclassmen got older friends they could turn to for guidance and advice. It may sound sort of like the upperclassmen were taking advantage of the underclassmen, but I know that I bonded heavily with the upperclassmen I took with me to dinner and whom have remained my good friends even after.” One concern that many students raised was how expensive they felt the meal plans are, and how they felt they should be able to share their swipes if they had extra. Sherin Vaidian ’17 and Victoria Mok ’17 said they felt that Sodexo is too profit-minded and doesn’t focus enough on students’ needs. They cited the lack of trays as an example. Griser also noted that students with meal plans have paid for that number of swipes per week and should be allowed to use them however they please. Griser also noted that underclassmen with special dietary needs, such as Celiac disease, are still forced to buy a meal plan, even though it might not meet their needs.

According to many students, being able to still swipe in friends and family is very valuable to them, especially for the social benefits. Emily Laurilliard ’16 said “I’m glad they’re bringing it back. It’s our meal plan,” and students should be able to choose how to use it. She talked about going to meals with a sports team after practice, with underclassmen swiping in the upperclassmen. Jackson Lyons ’17 echoed Laurilliard’s sentiments about group dinners. He also noted that being able to swipe in friends enables RPI students to swipe in non-RPI students, who might begin to bond with the RPI students, get to see their dining system, and consider transferring.

da Silva said that there were no definite changes planned for the future, but changes may occur. “I do support a healthy dialogue among student leadership, our dining operator, and the Institute Auxiliary organization to review and propose a reasonable guest privilege structure for next academic year.” A new committee, the Hospitality Services Advisory Committee, was created by the Student Senate on Monday and chaired by Joe Venusto ’17. HSAC will collaborate with Hospitality Services to, according to Venusto, “come up with the best possible solution using the resources available.” Keraga said “If … change is inevitable, we’ll be benchmarking peer schools and polling the student body, as well as holding open discussion with RPI students on a number of different media to gather input and give as many people as possible the opportunity to offer suggestions. Ultimately, based on this research, the committee–which is open to anyone to join–will vote on its final recommendation, which we hope will be passed to the Student Senate for a final review.” HSAC will meet with Sodexo during the first week of every month. Keraga said that he personally would like to see meal plans stay flexible, with allowances for guest swipes. Keraga further stresses that “[HSAC] is open to the student body, as is every Senate effort, so now more than ever, while this topic is still on people’s minds, I want to encourage people to join.” Venusto can be contacted at venusj2@rpi.edu; Keraga can be contacted at gm@rpi.edu.

Griser offered this advice for any future discussions regarding guest swipes: “To get a good solution, we need to have students (not just student officials) sit down and discuss with both Sodexo administrators and Hospitality administrators. And I really mean discuss; I do not mean students giving their opinion and then the administrators just saying, ‘Oh, we’ll think about it.’ Whatever solution is found should be an agreement between all parties. And frankly, I think every student, regardless of year, should have the choice of saying no to a meal plan if they don’t like the conditions.”

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Staff Editorial: Take advantage of RPI’s cornucopia of opportunities

College is a time for stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things. The Poly encourages students to make the most of their college experience by getting involved in campus life. However, this advice does not only apply to freshmen. Most returning students probably have activities they enjoy and plan on participating in again this school year, but the start of a new school year is a great opportunity to branch out and try something different.

RPI has a large number of activities to get involved in such as clubs, student research, Student Government, publications and athletic groups varying in skill level and time commitment. When deciding what student groups to join, try to diversify your extracurricular activities. Not only will participating in a wide range of activities help you become a well-rounded person, but you will also meet different groups of people.

Another way to get involved is by going Greek. With 28 social fraternities, five sororities, and a co-ed service fraternity, there are plenty of ways to get involved in Greek life. For many people, the best friends they make during their college experience are their fraternity brothers or sisters. Greek life provides a good mixture of activities such as interfraternity athletics, social events, and charity events. It also creates many opportunities to gain leadership experience through in-house positions or council positions. Even if you don’t think you’re interested in Greek life, pick up some rush calendars. The events are free, fun, and a great way to meet people.

Choose some activities that will help you in the future by developing leadership skills, networking with other students and alumni, or padding your resume. These activities or groups may include honor societies, networking groups like Red & White, or student research. Having fun in college may be important but for most students the goal of college is to get a job.

Finally, support your fellow students in their activities. Watch performances at the Playhouse, cheer on the hockey team in the Houston Field House, read student publications, or participate in a charity event. RPI’s student groups work hard throughout the year. Show your school spirit and support your peers!

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Guardians rule box office and galaxy

New Marvel film franchise hilarious and ridiculous in all the right ways

THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY FLY into battle during one of the action sequences that break up the many humorous scenes throughout the film.

I have two purposes to this review of a film a full month after its initial release, those are: one, to remind all those who saw it of just how incredible it is, and two, convince anyone on this planet who has yet to see it to drop whatever they are doing, and run, not walk, to the nearest theater to see Guardians of the Galaxy.

The concept of Guardians intrigued me as soon as I heard it was to be the next major Marvel studios release. As a Marvel fan, I heard of the Guardians in their multiple iterations before but, had never known in detail about them. I think this held true for many people going into this film, especially casual viewers. A situation like this, where the viewer has little to no knowledge about the material, can go either way as they can rapidly hate the subject or grow to love it. I find it hard to believe that any viewer left the theater without having added Guardians to their list of favorite film franchises. It’s just that good.

But why is it good? What makes it so memorable? Why has it been enshrined in my list of Top Ten Movies I Have Ever Seen? I believe it can be summed up in a single sentence: A masterful blend of comedy and action. Guardians is able to convey dark themes, while at the same time keeping a light air to itself with laugh out loud humor. One moment the characters are making outlandish jokes about Footloose, and the next a key character has a true scrape with death. My favorite film of all-time, Die Hard, is one of the few other films I would say has done this better. This is an art that has been attempted countless times before, but has been rarely achieved.

Another reason that I believe the film succeeds on such a high level is that, at least for me, it came off as what could be seen as a modern day retelling of Star Wars. Of course this has been done before, but what makes Guardians unique and successful as its own film is that it does not attempt to copy or recreate the magic of Star Wars, but instead uses key parallelism to tell its own story. One of the most obvious of these parallelisms is the rag-tag group of protagonists, none of which have any wish to be working as a team initially.

These characters are another of the film’s great strengths. The primary protagonist Peter Quill, also known as “Starlord,” played by Chris Pratt, is the sole earth-born or “terran” in the group. Quill was taken from his life on earth at the age of nine to become a sort of space pirate who travels the galaxy searching for valuable treasures. Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana, is the adopted daughter of Thanos, (you know who this is if you stuck around after the credits during The Avengers), who is well known throughout the galaxy as a ruthless assassin. Drax the Destroyer is an intergalactic criminal whose family was slaughtered by the film’s primary villain. Next, there’s Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, a genetically modified raccoon who lives his life as a bounty hunter with his best friend and partner Groot in tow. Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel, is an anthropomorphic tree who acts as the muscle half of the bounty hunter team. Groot has a sole set of words that he can say “… exclusively in that order.” Each is fascinating on its own, but the way they come together in a melting pot of races and cultures creates powerfully memorable interactions.

A final component to the film, and the one that makes it truly unique, is its soundtrack. Guardians does have an original score which is incredible in its own right. However, where the audio of the film truly shines is the soundtrack of popular songs from the 1960s and 1970s. These songs almost take on their own character, having a full backstory in the film and being played at strategic points within the plot. Personally, I have been sufficiently addicted to the soundtrack ever since my first viewing of the film.

These are just four of the major points that stood out to me as why I love this film. I have spoken to many others who have seen the film and some shared my reasons for loving it, but they also had their own. The one commonality was that they all loved it, and I can all but guarantee that you will too, so go see it as soon as you possibly can.

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President of the Union discusses goals for the year

AMARELLO ANSWERS questions about goals for the upcoming year.

President of the Union Erin Amarello ’15 seeks to apply her “unique approach and point of view” to become a great President of the Union. She seeks to brand herself as a people’s president; her goal is to make the Union more accessible to more students. “It’s your money!” she exclaimed. In her selection of the current Executive Board of the Union, she attempted to create as diverse an E-board as possible. Her goal was to change the culture of student governance at RPI. She noticed that the Student Government members tend to form a closed culture and be less diverse than the student body they represent. Her aim is such that everyone who comes to the E-board will have someone on the board they can relate to.

Her specific goals for this semester include installing new projectors in meeting rooms, putting the decommissioned post office in the games room to use, and improving the bookstore. Over the summer, she consulted on expanding the sushi station into Father’s Marketplace and installed MegaBurger in the Rathskeller.

Along the lines of increasing student involvement in the Rensselaer Union, Amarello is also developing a new way for students to bring ideas to UPAC committees. Student event concepts will soon be able to be submitted to UPAC, bringing the highest quality sound and lights to produce high-quality events that better reflect student desires. She is also working on a new Union website that will be more intuitive to use and will feature an events calendar on the front page. Amarello’s hope is that students who find themselves without an activity on a Friday night will open the Union website and notice that there’s an activity they find interesting on the front page. This will hopefully increase student involvement in clubs and activities.

The origin of Amarello’s approach resides in her father. He “always told [Amarello] that [she] can do anything.” An engineer himself, he inspired Amarello’s interest in nuclear engineering. As soon as he described nuclear processes to her as a child, she declared that she wanted to develop nuclear fusion. She is well on her way to achieving this goal, having already spent two summers working at nuclear power plants. Her father once brought a model of a nuclear reactor to her fifth grade class for show-and-tell, exemplifying his qualities as an extremely passionate, open, and friendly person.

These qualities translated well into Amarello. The attitude of openness will follow last year’s election poster scandal well. She plans on carrying an open, inviting attitude and maintaining open lines of communication with the student body throughout her term in office. She plans on leaving the door to her office open whenever she is present, and invites students to stop by with their questions, comments, and concerns, or even to just say hello. Her office is in the Student Government suite on the third floor of the Union.

Amarello states that though the Union under her leadership may be more accessible to the students, there needs to be a reciprocal effort on the part of the student body, actively choosing to become more involved on campus. As Amarello said, “It’s up to you to make your experience the way you want it to be.”

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Editorial Notebook

Feminism and equality

According to http://www.dictionary.com, the definition of feminism is the following: “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” The key word in that definition is equal. The majority of self-proclaimed “feminists” who believe that women are entitled to superiority over men, and those who are against feminism are the ones that get publicity. Think of it this way: do you think that the Tea Party’s ideas represent the entire Republican Party? Probably not, but the Tea Party gets a lot of media attention because of their radical actions. It’s the same idea with feminism. Modern feminists like myself, who just want to feel as though we are actually equal to men, aren’t given the time of day so that people can truly understand why we need feminism in our society.

Being a female is rough. Most guys would roll their eyes and try to argue after hearing any girl say that. They think that we have all these advantages and have it easier in life (being taken care of by a man, not paying for things, etc.). However, there is a harsh reality behind this supposed privilege, and feminism is the only way that women can overcome it.

A male professor recently asked me an interesting question. He was curious to understand what it’s like to be a woman at a college that is overwhelmingly male. While most of the time I don’t have any issues being a woman at RPI, sometimes it’s ridiculously obvious that there is still a stigma with women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. When I was in engineering classes, I was a minority. That didn’t bother me so much. What did bother me was when I was in hands on classes with labs. This wasn’t always the case, but every now and then, it was apparent my male partners didn’t have the same respect for my abilities as they did for the other males in the class. I would make suggestions, and often be ignored or have my ideas put aside. One of the other male group members would either make the same suggestion I did, or we would have to hear the answer from the teaching assistant before the other group members accepted something I said as being possibly correct.

This one example shows the root of the problem: men do not view women as their equals. We’re allowed to have our opinions and independence, but not without being guided by a man’s hand. I’m sick of having to feel out of place or question myself just because of my gender. Gender should never be the center of anyone’s identity. Whatever you define as your gender, you should be equal in every single way to the person next to you. Until society realizes this, women will have to resort to feminism to help the process of gaining equality.

I need feminism because I’m at a technical school where women are the minority. I need feminism because I can’t go to work, or walk around Troy without dealing with men making inappropriate comments or advances. I need feminism because when I get a job after I graduate, I will still make less money than a man who is as equally qualified as I am. I need feminism because I should be able to go out with my friends and not have to be cautious about what I’m wearing or who I talk to. I need feminism because if I ever happened to get sexually assaulted, somehow I probably asked for it, even if I said no. I need feminism because there’s still debate over what I can and cannot do with my own body, referring to birth control and abortion. And I definitely need feminism for those who would respond to this notebook saying that the reason I’m frustrated is because it’s my time of the month.

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