Citing the faults of administration’s moves

Former Director of the Union details how the Student Union has been significant to RPI

What does it mean to be a university? A university is a place of learning, of research, of people in a field educating future generations to succeed them and lead the human race into the future. Does anyone really think that The Honorable has the best interests of the students of this institute at heart? Does anyone think that she has the best interests of the faculty of this institution at heart, given that she’s made the faculty senate impotent? Given she doesn’t, how can we claim she has the best interests of this institution at heart?

At the meeting with Dr. Ross this Tuesday at Academy Hall, I asked him how the denial of the “application” to protest wasn’t a blatant violation of student civil liberties. He proceeded to give a rambling two minute non answer, as he had done by my count at least seven times throughout the student forum. Despite the civility of the students, Dr. Ross lied repeatedly to the students present, notably stating word for word, and I quote “The Director of the Student Union does not report to students.” He lied and refused to answer questions multiple times, also blaming the lack of communication on the students and the Student Union, whittling down the time in the meeting so as to not actually answer the questions of the students, which is a somewhat interesting choice in holding a forum that’s more than a simple public relations move.

We’ve attempted to reason with the administration, we’ve attempted to talk, but they’ve not engaged in good faith, they’ve stonewalled students, they’ve shifted blame to the student body, and they’ve violated the civil and academic liberties of the students and the faculty. At a certain point, behaving in the manner of conduct they prescribe is itself oppressive, as it forces us to act in ways in which we are impotent. Show up at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center Wednesday at 2 pm. Let your voice be heard. Show the administration that authoritarianism isn’t tolerated in academia.

Alex Norman ’18

I am writing as an alumnus of the Class of ’70 and a former Rensselaer Union staff person.

In my student time at RPI, through the Rensselaer Union, the IFC, and my fraternity, Acacia, I was afforded the opportunities to develop leadership skills which have stayed with me to this day. In the Rensselaer Union, I was a member of the Executive Board, the first chairperson of the fledgling organization, UPAC, and a member of a number of clubs. The leadership opportunities afforded to me through the student run Rensselaer Union were great learning experiences that I carried into my career and my many volunteer service experiences.

As director of student activities for the Rensselaer Union from September 1978 to spring 1983 and subsequently as managing director of the Rensselaer Union from 1983 to March 2011, it was with great pride that I worked with many students through good times and difficult times as they honed their own leadership, management, and interpersonal skills.

In the fall of 2015, I was pleased that students took pride in celebrating one of RPI’s great traditions, the 125th anniversary of the Rensselaer Union.

In the 2006 final report to the Institute, the Middle States Accreditation Committee, chaired by then-Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon, wrote about the Rensselaer Union and student leadership on page 11:

“Students participate in the governance of the Institute in many ways. Their own activities are largely governed by the students themselves through the unique Rensselaer Union and its components, including the Student Senate. Student views on plans and policies are sought by the administration.”

On page 22, the Middle States committee significantly states:

“Opportunities for student development as demonstrated by the unique student-run union and student leadership development program are excellent learning experiences and distinctive attributes of student life.”

Unfortunately, it appears, from all I have read, that the administration’s view of student leadership, student decision-making, and the Rensselaer Union has drastically changed.

Rick Hartt ’70

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