My View

For balanced conversations, constructive commentary

Last week’s Polytechnic published an editorial by a resigning student Senator who advanced unfounded, inaccurate, and unsubstantiated claims that serve to drive wedges between members of our community, rather than build bridges between us. This article reminds us of how important the facts are even when one is stating their personal opinions.

Because I promised to be a vice president who will work with students to keep us honest as a community and who will challenge those efforts that undermine our goal of being an intentional and thriving community, I must comment on last week’s article. Therefore, I emphatically and categorically refute the following claims that are simply false:

“… amongst the board of trustees, there is a culture of, at best, negligence and blind faith in Jackson, and, at worst fear. The fact that the very board which is supposed to oversee her does not have the will or courage to address this issue should be cause for concern amongst all members of the RPI community.”

“What is quite clear is that Sharma was targeted because, as GM, she took her leadership role seriously and spoke out candidly and critically about Jackson’s leadership.”

“… and the students who have been continuously trampled on for the advancement of a private agenda …”

“… Jackson is to learn that she cannot simply fire administrators and force out faculty and students who do not bow to her will.”

The Board is not negligent, does not lack courage, and is not in fear of Jackson. Anyone who understands the function of a Board of Trustees knows how little sense this claim makes. It is ridiculous to assert that our board, consisting of prominent leaders and accomplished and committed professionals, can be intimidated by the president whose activities they oversee. The very idea is insulting and could not be further from the truth. From my insider’s viewpoint, I confidently state that the Board, and we in the senior administration and academic leadership, believe in our president and The Rensselaer Plan.

Our former Grand Marshal was not targeted because of her leadership. She left for personal and private reasons.

There is no evidence of students being “trampled on” or of students, administrators, or faculty being forced out for failure to kowtow to Jackson. All of these very serious allegations are untrue. 

I am aware of the challenges that our community faces. In fact, my first six months at the university have familiarized me with many of them, and many community members now know we are taking steps to meet these challenges. However, leadership in meeting these challenges does not include fabricating information and constructing elaborate “tales” that effectively separate segments of our community from one another. Leadership means facing challenges by bringing people together on honest and inclusive terms.

It is with this outlook that the Division of Student Life, the Student Senate, and countless other students and groups across our community are working together to realize our highest goals and ideals as a great university. And it is in this spirit that I categorically refute the idea that our Student Senate “will not be the powerful and critical organization.” Our Student Senate is already taking steps to retain our community’s trust in their leadership and capabilities. They deserve no less than our strongest vote of confidence.

We will continue to behave like the top-tier university that we are by building upon our fundamental strengths, building upon our accomplishments, and building the fiber of our great community. 

I hope that we will move to expect more balanced conversations about our community and I hope that The Poly will help facilitate this process. Rensselaer is an impressive university, with so many impressive attributes. If we choose to emphasize these accomplishments, I am certain that our broader Rensselaer community will recognize the special place that has brought some of the world’s most talented students, professors and professionals together: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

I have no interest in engaging in a war of words in The Poly or anywhere else for that matter. This is the type of behavior that tears at our community. But I must hold fast to the same expectations that we hold in our classrooms: that we must be accurate, honest, and act with integrity in the production and presentation of our work. Therefore, I reiterate that my door is open to anyone interested in constructively discussing the above matters in a way that leads to an even stronger community.

Timothy Sams

Vice President for Student Life