The Polytechnic Editorial Board is concerned with how Summer Arch has been handled. The Arch program was announced to the student body by President Shirley Ann Jackson over email on September 10, 2015, and that was the last official announcement we have heard about Arch. The program would bring monumental change to the dynamic of the Institute, and we at The Poly feel that without proper implementation and input from students, Arch would would do more harm than good for Rensselaer.
The program is expected to be introduced as an optional pilot for Class of 2019 for students in the School of Engineering, followed by a second optional pilot for all students in the Class of 2020, excluding those in the School of Architecture. The full, mandatory program has been scheduled for introduction with the entire Class of 2021.
Naturally, because of the lack of details, many concerns have been raised by students across all class years about aspects of the program. Primarily, countless students have addressed the concept of mandating everyone to participate. There are multiple reasons why the Editorial Board views this planned implementation as problematic.
First, the majority of student organizations, both within the Rensselaer Union and throughout RPI, depend on juniors throughout the year for leadership and heavy involvement in the organizations. Freshmen and sophomores are usually still learning the ropes of leading an organization. Seniors are focusing on Capstone, training the next group of leaders, and most importantly, completing their undergraduate academic careers. Additionally, those involved in student government for the junior class would not be able to accurately represent their constituencies if they don’t have all of the class present for that year. Outside of the Union, Greek organizations strongly depend on juniors for various needs, especially fall rush. Fall rush serves as most Greek organizations’ primary, if not only, recruitment period at the beginning of the academic year. If the juniors are involved in a Greek organization and they are expected to leave for their fall semester, that Greek organization could be negatively impacted immensely.
Second, mandating students to complete a summer semester immediately following a fall and spring semester will cause an incredible mental and academic burden on the students. This will be even more accurate for the half of the junior class that would be expected to stay for the fall semester. RPI coursework is known to be high-effort and high-reward, but having that continued level of high intensity for three or four consecutive semesters would reflect poorly on students. Considering that the administration is contemplating halving the winter recess and eliminating multiple holidays from the schedule, including Grand Marshal Day and study days before finals, even two semesters may become too mentally exhausting.
Third, on the Institute’s website dedicated to Arch, it says “students seeking a co-op or internship experience during their “away” semester will have the full resources of the Center for Career and Professional Development available to assist them in their search.” It does not say that the CCPD will ensure that students will be able to find a co-op, travel program, research opportunity, or community service program. There is a chance that an unprepared student would find himself or herself without an opportunity come their “away” semester.
Finally, with parents and other relatives attending Family Weekend this weekend, we are reminded of the families of RPI. For students that live far away and don’t see many opportunities to return home and spend time with families, we ask if it is wise to remove the main opportunity for students to return home. Being away from family would be taxing on both the student and the family.
The Poly has been attempting to schedule interviews with members of the administration for several weeks. With every tentative date that has come and passed, another complication has caused the interviews to be postponed, rescheduled, and postponed again. The Poly is actively seeking to answer the questions posed in this staff editorial.
Summer Arch is not necessarily detrimental. We understand and value the potential that the Institute sees in the program; Rensselaer graduates would become more well-rounded students given a semester of open opportunity. However, we see a number of potential logistic problems, and thus far have not caught wind of any satisfactory solutions. Should the program be made optional and these logistic problems be resolved through student input and communication with the Institute, Summer Arch could prove to be a great addition to a Rensselaer education.