If I could give a condensed description of the Town Hall meeting I attended two weeks ago, it would go a little something like this: “It started late, and then I was given some cuddly feel-good information about how the school really is awesome and how such a great job is really being done. After that the floor was opened to questions, most of which President Shirley Ann Jackson deferred to her staff, which then answered with ‘Well, we’ve actually been talking about that, and …’.”
Well, that’s great! I sure wish I knew that. These are not the answers I like to hear from an administration that has been pledging increased transparency, especially given the current state of the Institute.
Of course, it’s hard to take this comment seriously when the next question on transgender issues is met with an answer from the president’s staff that verbatim tells us they’ve been discussing it. That’s fantastic! How were we supposed to know?
A faculty member asked a question on why the administrative time frame to respond to issues was as long as it was, citing the example of the Faculty Senate constitution. Amazingly, Jackson pulled out of her hat that it was being presented to the board of trustees in December. How were we supposed to know?
A graduate student wanted to know what RPI was doing to improve graduate life. Reaching into the bag, what do we find? Oh, we’re working on four-year guaranteed support for doctoral students!
I’m not looking to discredit the questions that were asked at the meeting. I felt that they touched on key issues that, as an RPI student, I could see as important.
Here’s the problem I have: All of these questions could have gone, to some degree, unasked if the information was more readily available. I could see myself being less concerned about the state of transgender issues on campus if I was aware that there was discussion in the work, or at least better aware of who is talking about it and who I should go to. I could see myself less irked about the lack of timeliness in the administration’s response if I was aware of the progress being made. And I’d feel a lot better about being a graduate student here if I was aware of what the school was trying to do for me that didn’t just indirectly lead to more dollars in the school’s pockets.
To whomever in the administration is listening, just make the students more aware. Keep it in a standard place that’s readily available, and don’t just stash it into MorningMail. Maybe coin minutes.rpi.edu where anyone can find the proceedings of various meetings administration members have? Just give us something.