Speak up about problems

Back in the November 18, 2009 issue, I wrote a controversial editorial about the faults of the intramural athletics program here at Rensselaer. Needless to say, I received some flack about it (from irate club hockey players and their girlfriends), and had a sit-down with the director of athletics, Jim Knowlton. I love the criticism and knowing that people at RPI (and other schools apparently!) take the time to actually read all the stuff I spend hours crunching away on a weekly basis (20-straight hours on layout and writing alone this past week, for example), but having a one-on-one meeting with Knowlton? I honestly thought I was not going to make it out of his beautiful new office overlooking the new football stadium at the East Campus Athletic Village alive.

What happened next, however, it not something I would have predicted in a million years. After I explained how I wasn’t taking a jab at the athletics department but rather the dishonesty of the students and lack of respect they hold for their peers when participating in intramurals, suddenly I wasn’t in imminent danger. Instead, I was let in on the preliminary details of a complete revamp of the intramural athletics program. Although the proposed changes can’t change the attitude of the people taking part in IM athletics, it does crack down on dishonesty and level out the playing field, making the respective levels of each sport a fair representation of the talent pools that fill them. A follow-up in the December 9 issue from Coordinator of Recreation Services Joe Campo, filled in the rest of the student body on the changes to take place this semester.

I’m sure some of you are trying to figure out what I’m getting at, but stop and think about it for a second; a student complained about something (which obviously was a serious problem), and lo-and-behold—the policy was changed. Not just a tiny alteration in the rule book, but a complete rewrite of the whole system. The whole thing! Now I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to have issues with the old system (actually, I know I wasn’t), but I guess my little editorial in a newspaper that no one really reads anymore was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m not going to lie, that’s pretty awesome.

After three months of ducking and covering under my camera, notebooks, and various other structures at the Houston Field House whenever Knowlton passed by, still obviously shaken up by my encounter in late November, my hideout on the catwalk was soon discovered this past weekend. But this time, the hockey team was winning, all went well, and I had a friendly chat with the former Army Colonel and realized I’m no longer in any sort of impending doom.

I guess the other point I’m trying to get at (I’ve learned my lesson about not making my topics of argument clear) is that speaking up about issues is not something we as students should be afraid of. Maybe try not to do it as brashly as I did, but just get that word, that simple idea out there for others to think about. Other members of the administration may not be as open and as accessible as Knowlton was to me, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

My last little tidbit here is going to be about feedback: I love all of it, positive and negative. Tell me what you, the reader, like about the paper, the sports section, whatever, but also don’t be afraid to let me (or the respective editor) know what you don’t like. I’m not talking about relentless harassment like I’m still receiving from one group on campus, but constructive criticism. Let me know whether my time spent following RPI hockey to the ends of the earth (literally) is worth it, or whether it’s a waste of my time. It’s only going to make our paper better.