Editor’s Note: The following is an open letter to President Shirley Ann Jackson:
Dear Dr. Jackson,
Firstly, I would like to say congratulations on making it through 10 years as the president of RPI, and for all the things that you have accomplished in that time. I know that being president of this school must take a great deal of hard work and dedication, especially when you and the administration are not consistently supported by the rest of the Rensselaer community. Unfortunately, as a student and a member of this community you so often mention, I did not feel welcome at the events held this past weekend.
While I am not the strongest supporter of your policies, a 10-year anniversary is significant in its own right, so I planned to make the most of this weekend and temporarily forget my opinions on the Clustered Learning Advocacy and Support for Students initiative and the current state of the foreign language department. In spite of my efforts, every event I encountered seemed inaccessible to the average student, either by design or simply as a result of poor planning.
First were the concerts by Aretha Franklin and Joshua Bell. Several days passed after your announcement of the shows at the town meeting before any information could be found about ticketing. When the information was released, it was confusing: Were we supposed to pick up tickets from the Union or order them online? Eventually I managed to get two tickets to the Bell concert, though I know they were in high demand and many people who wanted to attend could not. At this point, I now had to worry about a dress code, as none was stated on the website. This information did not come until Thursday evening in an e-mail to the entire campus. Luckily I planned ahead for this, because I don’t normally bring a nice dress with me to campus, and though formal wear would “not be required for entry,” it is somewhat embarrassing to be wearing business casual when everyone around you has a tux.
Aside from the two major events, other activities were advertised on the Celebration website. One of these was the breakfast at East Campus Athletic Village on Saturday morning. The only information provided for this event was the time, location, and name, which was simply “Buffet Breakfast.” Now, 8 am is pretty early for me to wake up on a weekend, but I was trying to take advantage of all that was offered this weekend, especially if it involved free food. Imagine my surprise when I walk inside, in my t-shirt and jeans, and see a roomful of people, middle aged or older, wearing suits and enjoying a sit-down meal. I felt so out of place and so unwelcome that I left without a word.
You, or whoever was responsible for planning this weekend, could have easily given a better indication of what to expect at these events. At least then students like me could be prepared and make an informed decision about whether to attend and in what manner. Not only was the entire weekend unfit for the average RPI student, but we were additionally mislead into thinking that we would be welcomed as part of the “RPI community,” a group that seems to exist in name only. I sincerely hope that if your tenure at RPI lasts another 10 years, or if we have any other milestones in the near future, that you and the rest of the administration can remember that RPI is an educational institute, populated mostly by students, and those students do not appreciate being marginalized.