Editorial Notebook

Student concerns unheard at Institute

If it wasn’t clear earlier in this issue, The Polytechnic’s editorial board is trying to get one point across: students are unhappy with the condition the Institute has fallen into and their voices are not really being heard on the matter. There’s no coincidence this issue is being brought up this very week—it happens to be Family Weekend here at Rensselaer, and from our editors’ (and my own) prior experiences, a parent’s voice can often travel much further than a student’s.

Entering my fifth year here at the ’Tute, I’ve seen a lot of changes on campus—and the lack thereof. While buildings like the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center and the East Campus Athletic Village are nice and probably impressive to a prospective student (RPI’s No. 1 goal), they really serve little practical purpose to the entire campus. I’ll be honest; my favorite part about ECAV is that some very deserving athletics staff members finally got the offices they’ve worked hard for.

At first glance, the average student wouldn’t really see many problems with the various building conditions at Rensselaer, but take a step on any other school’s campus and you’ll notice the change. Yeah, I know, it’s probably just a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side,” but have you ever seen the library at the United States Military Academy at West Point? It’s absolutely incredible. Then you head back to the Folsom Library and realize it’s a complete dump, but your other potential study locations are just as dirty and ugly, so you might as well pick the lesser of two evils.

It’s not just academic conditions either—take a step into your child’s dorm room this weekend and see if it is a place you’d even let your dog sleep. Not that I’ve lived on campus in ages, but I remember the horrifying amounts of mold in my room, making me pretty ill for the entirety of my freshman year. Talking to many of my classmates who still reside on campus, those problems haven’t changed, or are even worse in some residence halls such as North Hall. Dirty bathrooms, leaking roofs, dilapidated walls … you’d think that the Institute would be quick on its feet to fix such problems but that’s not the case. Most e-mails to the campus repair line go unread, and it’s nearly impossible to get anyone’s attention.

I’ve been lucky that throughout my time here I’ve been able to resolve many of my problems on my own, but mainly only due to who I know, or rather, people I knew that could get in touch with some of the higher-ups on campus. I remember for some problems, however, that a resolution was found only when my parents called the school. For instance, when EMPAC opened a few years ago, I was trying to get a spot in the parking garage since I had to live off-campus. Although at first I was able to reserve the spot online, I was quickly told that not all the spots in the garage were available due to needing some of them open for potential EMPAC events. At first, the powers that be didn’t care about anything I had to say, but when my dad made his opinion heard on the matter (plus his views on the faulty lottery system that got me stuck off campus in the first place), I suddenly not only had my garage spot, but miraculously a single room in Colonie opened up for me to live in. I took the parking spot and politely declined the dorm, but none of that was even on the table when I tried to talk to Residence Life or Parking and Transportation.

I don’t like making my parents fight my battles for me, but sometimes it’s the only choice to get problems solved. I mean (in my case and for many other students) it is their money that’s being spent on this “world-class” education that can’t even get me a job when I graduate. I’d be pretty upset if the hundreds of thousands of dollars I spent went not on things to help my student flourish in both an academic and residential environment, but rather on useless things like buildings that students can’t even use.

Just remember that if you’re a parent touring campus and see something that you don’t agree with, speak up. Your student may not have any say in how things are handled on campus, or the conditions they must deal with, but you do. Take advantage of that to help all of us reach our potential at Rensselaer.