Rensselaer’s civil obedience

Navigating the nonexistent political sphere at RPI

Let me preface this by saying that I genuinely feel like I missed out on the opportunity to be an angry teenager in high school, and I am doing my absolute best to compensate in college. Unfortunately, I forsook myself to possibly one of the least politically-minded schools in the country; outlets for frustration on campus have essentially been relegated to crippling binge-drinking or compulsive studying. I’m not asking for much; I just want the campus to be angry enough about something to make a change.

During the Student Senate meeting last week, a motion to create a tuition-locked plan for incoming freshman was overturned because members of the Senate felt it would be too difficult for something to actually come of their motion. This frustrates me—we are paying upwards of $65,000 a year to attend the school, yet we don’t feel like we have the ability to make a change that could benefit future incoming freshmen? Rensselaer has provided us an excellent opportunity for education, but we are entitled to input on how this school should be run.

It takes about 15 minutes of talking to someone to find something that they dislike about the school; whether it be Sodexo, grade deflation, or the lack of air conditioning, everybody has their opinions of campus that they dismiss. If you see something you don’t like, why not make an active effort to change it? In a school of 5,000 students, it’s incredibly unlikely that you are the only person on campus with a particular opinion, and it’s painful to wait for someone else to make the first move.

College is meant to be a transformative period in our lives, and a substantial part of that is having the power to make decisions. We have been provided the opportunity to live on our own, study on our own, and ultimately make choices that give us an understanding of responsibility. Universities have historically been a breeding ground for the politically-minded, and it’s incredibly disappointing to see a student body as intelligent and as well-informed as RPI’s go to waste. I completely understand that we are a school dedicated to engineering and the sciences, but it’s unfair to ourselves to think that our interests should end there.

And it’s not like the school hasn’t provided platforms to give us a voice, either; the Student Senate meets on a weekly basis, and both the Grand Marshal and President of the Union are always available for requests. The school needs and values the input of its students to create a better learning environment, and it’s our job to make sure that what we want is understood by the Institute.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s important—just as important—for the student body here to be proactive in the political sphere of the institute as the academic one. This is a period in our lives where we have so little to lose in voicing our opinions, but so much experience and worldliness to gain. Do something, RPI.