Rensselaer-Troy war rages

Watching the continual Troy versus RPI match-ups has left me weary over the past couple of months. From hearing about a public safety fee after the fire in the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center to the recent decision of the zoning board not to approve President Shirley Ann Jackson’s new house on the existing Tibbitts Avenue property, I never fail to be amazed at the poor relations that exist between the Rensselaer community and the City of Troy.

My astonishment, however, truly reached a high point when Troy Fire Chief Tom Garrett announced that he ordered fire fighters not to enter the Voorhees Computing Center in the event of a fire. Having done the research for last week’s news article, I believe that the Fire Department is really wrong in that call.

Garrett justified this call in saying that he wouldn’t bet his $1 million fire truck on the stability of RPI’s access roads. I’m glad to know that the Fire Department can put a value on the lives of RPI students and staff at $1 million for whoever is stuck in the building at the time.

Generally, a fire department’s mission reads along the lines of, “To protect the citizens of [insert city name] from [insert harmful things].”

So my frustration stems from the following fact: I’m a resident of Troy. I have lived in an off-campus apartment for 1.5 years. I have worked in Troy at Francesca’s Café, meaning I know a number of Troy residents. I spend money downtown. I’ve seen all parts of Troy, from north to south. I live for the Saturday afternoon farmer’s market and Troy Night Out. I pay property taxes with rent, utilities, etc. to the City of Troy. I spend Sunday mornings studying at Spillin’ the Beans café over coffee and breakfast.

So what would this problem boil down to if I were in the VCC at the time of a fire (a likely scenario, given how much my laptop hates me)? I’m a contributing member of the City of Troy, but I’m not worth saving?

While I can understand the Fire Department’s frustration with having to respond to every burnt popcorn call in a residence hall, it is part of having a fire department in a college town. Why do we never hear of any problems at Sage College downtown? The college has never been asked to pay for anything in relation to a public safety fee, had construction work questioned, or the like. What is it about RPI that Troy just doesn’t like?

In looking at several blogs and reports on the recent clashes between the city and the Institute, much of it stems from RPI doing “whatever we want.” We’re seen as the rich kids on the hill, who stockpile all the money the Institute generates to make big fancy buildings.

I strongly object to this view and find the stereotype that many in Troy hold towards RPI students insulting; however, I have to wonder where this comes from? Many of the other RPI students I know spend just as much time as I do in Troy (though I know this isn’t the case for all). RPI pays property taxes on some (though not all) of its property and the Institute is a large employer in the area.

Maybe it’s a communication issue. Many citizens of Troy seem either not to know or care about a lot of things that RPI contributes to the community.

Either way, I love Troy and love to contribute to the community. I find it hard to believe that I am only rewarded by hearing that I won’t be saved in the case of a fire at the VCC or will have to pay a public safety fee for services that I have personally never actually needed in my years at RPI.

As RPI students, we should contribute to the city we live in. Try a new restaurant downtown with your off-campus RAD, which is accepted at a bunch of new places. Visit the farmer’s market on a Saturday in the Atrium (right off the 87 CDTA Route). Why not show Troy that we’re more than those rich kids on the hill?