Union gears up for anniversary, master plan

Happy Leap Day, RPI! In anticipation of the 125th anniversary of the Rensselaer Union in 2015, the Union is engaging in a facilities master plan. The last facility master plan for the Union was almost 15 years ago and focused almost exclusively on the current Union building. This facility master plan is intended to be more encompassing, asking members of the Rensselaer community to think more broadly about students’ social, recreational, cultural, and performance activities and programs. These activities currently occur primarily in the Union, Mueller Center, Armory, ’87 Gym, RPI Playhouse, West Hall, Academy Hall, and a variety of other campus facilities and venues. However, as we imagine what the RPI student experience might be in 30 years, we ask that you try to ignore the current facilities and instead try to envision what activities Rensselaer students will be engaged in in 2040.

Phalanx is hosting a variety of Student Focus Groups, each one led by a different Union staff member and focused on a different aspect of the student experience and how it will fit into the Union Facilities Master Plan. These meetings began last Thursday and are an amazing opportunity for students to get involved in the planning process. These meetings will continue for the next three Thursdays, beginning at 7 pm in the Patroon Room. This past Thursday, February 23, the group, led by Director of the Union Bookstore Mike McDermott, focused on the Bookstore, food services, and other business operations. This Thursday, March 1, Director of Student Activities Cameron McLean will lead the group in a discussion about student social programs, clubs, and activities. Thursday, March 8, the meeting will be led by Director of the Union Joe Cassidy and Union Operations Coordinator Jean Purtell and will focus on support spaces, such as meeting rooms, lounges, offices, parking, and more. The last meeting, on March 22, will focus on fitness, recreation, and intramurals and will be facilitated by Operations Manager of the Mueller Fitness Center Steve Allard and Supervisor of the Fitness Center Joe Campo.

The purpose of these groups is not to simply focus on what students will be interested in, but what facilities will be necessary for students to participate in any potential activities. There is so much opportunity over the next 30 years for the Union to change and develop, and this planning process is integral in working towards a future that students can take full advantage of. The focus groups will be questioning what RPI student social event, organizations, and club activities will be like in 2040. They will also ask about what the on-campus dining experience might be and even how students are going to be getting textbooks. After figuring out the answers to all of these questions, or at least brainstorming potential ideas, the next step is to discuss what kinds of facilities and services are necessary to meet any future needs. This is the most important step, because these focus groups will bring in information that will be the building blocks of the Union Facilities Master Plan. I encourage all students to attend one of these sessions and participate in creating and supporting a future for our Union.

Another great event to attend if you are interested in finding out about the Union is the biannual State of the Union event. It will be held this evening, Wednesday, February 29 from 7–8:30 pm in the McNeil room. This is a great opportunity to come and hear updates from the Grand Marshal and myself about the current activities within the Union and Student Government. I encourage you to attend and bring questions.

The last big event going on this week is Genericon. Genericon is a weekend-long, general convention and it features a wide variety of attractions including science fiction, gaming of all forms, and anime. Events include panels by guest speakers, video gaming tournaments, role-playing games of both the pen-and-paper and live-action variety, and 24-hour showings of both science fiction classics and modern anime. The convention runs for an uninterrupted 48 hours, beginning at 5 pm on Friday, March 2 and ending at 5 pm the following Sunday, March 4.

I hope to see you all at the State of the Union this evening. Also, please keep your eyes open for an upcoming survey with questions relating to the Union Facilities Master Plan, this gives any student unable to make the focus groups a chance to give input. If you ever have any questions about the Union or the Executive Board, feel free to contact me at I hope everyone enjoys their week.