On Saturday, the Alliance for Responsible Government held an event in Commons Circle to celebrate the 187th birthday of the Institute. Through the form of a birthday card for the Institute, they subtly described their overarching purpose by asking, “What’s your birthday wish for RPI?”
Offering free cake and hot chocolate, ARG members quickly gained the attention of passing students. At that point, members informed students of their presence on campus, explained their goals and encouraged participation of all members of the RPI community, as they claim many students do not realize that there are problems. Dan Zollman ’12, for example, mentioned to students that ARG is a grassroots movement which began when concerned students met regarding what they believed to be issues resulting from less than ideal governance of the Institute.
This problem, he says, stems from the relative lack of shared governance at RPI. Several years ago, the Faculty Senate was suddenly disbanded, meaning that the faculty lost much of its ability to influence administrative decisions. Both students and faculty, Zollman claims, want the Faculty Senate back, and think it would be healthy for the Institute to bring it back. Such a development would allow students and faculty to “control their own destiny.”
Other members present at the event mentioned other issues that they, both individually and as a part of ARG, want to see discussed. Some want to see a more transparent form of communication between RPI administration and the rest of the community. This includes answering questions students have brought forward regarding faculty retention, an issue ARG members wish to see addressed.
However, says Brent Solina ’12, another member of ARG, this requires that the administration realizes that “students want to know things.” And, he mentions, they want to know why the administration has taken certain actions, such as building a fountain behind Commons while the Amos Eaton building “is falling apart.” A solution to this, Solina and other ARG members claim, would be to hold a discussion to address these issues and ease student concerns.
Despite the fact that these concerns seem to center around administrative decisions, Solina emphasized that ARG “has no real vendetta” and does not “target any particular person.” Additionally, he says, these issues are merely the ones that concern current members of ARG and those with whom they associate themselves. This, Solina explains, is one of the main reasons for holding the event on Saturday. As a growing organization, he says, ARG welcomes the ideas of the student body as a whole. As such, they provided a voluntary online survey which interested students were able to fill out. This survey focused on both concerns of those who filled it out and overall feelings students had regarding various aspects of campus life. ARG also had an email list which interested students could join to receive additional information.
Throughout the course of the event, students seemed interested in the group and overall movement; dozens added their email addresses to the proffered list. However, many also dismissed the event entirely, appearing to be uninterested in ARG. Vice President of Student Life Timothy Sams and Secretary of the Institute and General Counsel Charles Carletta also made appearances, although neither their opinions of ARG nor the administration’s could be determined. Additionally, members of the Student Senate attended the event, including Grand Marshal Lee Sharma ’12. Regarding the Senate’s official position of ARG, the GM mentioned a report currently being written by an ad hoc committee of the Senate.
The first draft of this report will be ready, she said, on November 14. The Student Senate will then take a vote on the report and formally develop its official position on ARG as well as on issues which may appear in the upcoming report. This will be mostly for Senate use, the GM mentioned, although she was quick to include that any noteworthy pieces of information may be distributed to the RPI at that time.
The event succeeded, they said, in achieving the goals set for it by ARG. They stress that, if students are interested in their group, they can visit their website at http://saverpi.wordpress.com for more information.