As the leader of the team responsible for caring for our facilities, I was disappointed to read the two opinion columns and the open letter in last week’s The Polytechnic that were critical of our efforts. While I would have preferred that the editors and writers express their concerns directly to me to obtain a response—as they have done on other issues this semester and in the past—rest assured that the Administration Division team conducts ongoing careful and thorough reviews of our procedures to ensure that students are well served by our physical environment.
Our commitment to the physical campus that provides the underpinning for research, learning, and living is unwavering, and is supported by a devoted maintenance and administrative team. Each year, the Institute invests millions of dollars and thousands of staff hours to maintaining and upgrading 4.6 million square feet of facility space spread across more than 120 primary buildings on our 274-acre campus.
Under The Rensselaer Plan launched over a decade ago, we have spent an average of almost $10 million annually on facilities maintenance and repairs, upgrades to our residential and dining facilities, new equipment, technology and upgrades to classrooms, studios, and teaching laboratories. This investment included: the replacement of roofs on 22 buildings, restoration and repair of exterior facades, installation of new windows in many of the buildings, and upgrades of utility infrastructure components throughout campus.
We have also upgraded the academic facilities of the Institute: upgrades to undergraduate laboratory facilities in the School of Engineering, a new digital design lab in the School of Architecture, new facilities to support the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program, two new high-tech classrooms for ROTC, and investments in equipment and instrumentation for the School of Science that will help us provide a bridge to a new Center for Science when it is built. We also have ongoing work to upgrade dormitories and dining halls. In total, over the last decade we have invested more than $94 million on academic infrastructure, buildings maintenance, and upgrades. It is incorrect to assert that our overall capital investment budget was assigned solely to constructing major facilities such as the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations, or East Campus Athletic Village.
While I do not intend to use this forum to respond point-by-point to concerns raised by last week’s article—myself and other members of Rensselaer leadership will be meeting directly with the Student Senate in the coming days—some of the anecdotes raised last week were simply inaccurate. For example, it was suggested that the Troy Building was upgraded during the administration of President Shirley Ann Jackson, while the adjacent Ricketts Building was not. The fact is that the Troy Building was upgraded before Jackson was appointed in 1999.
In the past the Grand Marshal and the Facilities Committee of the Student Senate have done an effective job of communicating with us on these issues. The leadership team in the Administration Division looks forward to continuing our work with the Student Senate and other student leaders to identify opportunities where we can improve our approach to these issues. This would include developing a response to issues with the FIXX program raised in the articles last week.
Vice President for Administration