Aiming for respect at Rensselaer

Senior Board of The Polytechnic responds to recent campus postering

With the recent revival of the Save the Union movement, the Senior Board would like to reiterate the importance of respect. In March, the student body, along with some alumni and faculty, gathered to protest outside of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. As a collective, it was a moment to be proud of; we expressed opinions peacefully, with dignity, and with pride. We made our voices heard, and it seemed to have the effect the student body intended.

After the event, the Poly Editorial Board wrote a staff editorial reflecting on the Spring Town Meeting (https://poly.rpi.edu/s/c7z5v). In the closing paragraph, we stressed the importance of respect:

“To see a change, we must come to an understanding that stems from our mutual respect… For students to respect the president, the president must respect the students. Dr. Jackson, you have heard your students come in droves and cry out. We hope that you will hear our message and listen to us as you have before. And students, we implore you to see Dr. Jackson and the administration as humans, not as tyrants in Ivory Towers.”

At the same time, President Shirley Ann Jackson said in the Spring Town Meeting, “don’t vilify me in the press and then come and ask to talk to me.” There’s a point to be made in that it is an obligation of the administration to maintain communication with the students; however, recent student actions have been pointed, rather than conducive to ameliorating the situation. It is as much a responsibility of the students to maintain communication as it is of the administration, and hostility is an abuse of that responsibility. Remember: we are the ones who are in a position to make a change, but to do that we need to express some form of diplomacy.

Recently, students have taken to postering campus with statements that target individuals within the Rensselaer administration. There’s a fine line between informing the campus and scaring the student body into an agenda. As the Senior Board, there is some sentiment that these posters have taken to the latter. In principle, this can’t be healthy for Rensselaer; we have worked hard to improve the vehicles of communication between students and administrators, and these posters are nothing but detrimental to that goal.

In effect, these posters are not far from fear mongering; they have devolved from being informative to being angry. These posters are no longer giving the campus information they need—they are encouraging the abuse of pitchforks and torches in the name of being righteous. It’s not that this situation isn’t severe or worth protesting, but we need a means to an end. We cannot frighten or name-call the administration into yielding; if this problem is worth solving, then it is worth solving with the same professionalism that we expect of the administrators.

Acting solely on behalf of the students in a rude, cruel, and unprofessional manner only serves to hurt them. It makes it harder for the Grand Marshal and the President of the Union to raise concerns; it makes it harder for The Polytechnic to research and investigate; and it makes it harder for students to make a change.

We must engage in a constructive dialogue with the Rensselaer administration in order to keep what we love most about our Union intact. As students, we are proud of the fact that we have banded together to encourage change; however, if we want to proceed, we need to be more cautious of the way that we approach people. By creating these posters, we have done nothing shy of antagonizing individuals who could help us make the changes we want. The focus of the movement must be clear and avoid dilution by staying on-message and remembering its purpose.