On Monday, September 12, the Save the Union movement released a statement saying that the Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students position had the “responsibilities of the [Executive Director of Student Activities]… quietly added to the dean of students’ role.”
Save the Union says the role would “provide leadership for a broad portfolio of co-curricular programs including the Student Union, Student Government, and Campus Recreation.”
Similar language in the Executive Director of Student Activities role sparked the Save the Union movement and led to a protest outside the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center during the Spring Town Meeting earlier this year.
On September 13, an email went out to the Rensselaer community from Vice President for Student Life Dr. Frank E. Ross III. “Recently, you may have seen misinformation related to the Director of the Rensselaer Union position,” the email said.
“The purpose for restructuring the Division of Student Life is to strengthen the student experience, strengthen support for students, strengthen portfolio effectiveness, and enhance opportunities for personal and professional development for Student Life staff.”
With the restructuring, new assistant vice presidents would be hired and given responsibilities under Student Life categories, including campus experience, student transitions, and student success.
The Polytechnic had the opportunity to speak with Ross on Wednesday about the position and its responsibilities.
Ross said that this position has been around since the initial creation of the Executive Director position as part of the Student Life restructuring. In May, student leaders were invited to interview training so that they could provide input on candidates for the new positions. At the training, the job description of the Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students was presented.
Ross explained that the Student Life portfolio is quite large and in need of management, which the creation of these new positions will aid in. Student Life has been broken down into categories headed by assistant vice presidents to provide more director support to their specific clusters.
Ross said it was “no way ever the intent to get in the way of the students and what they do” and never the intent to take away responsibility from the Director of the Union, E-Board, or Student Senate. “The Director of the Union is crucial,” Ross said.
He emphasized that the role of Director of the Union would not change, and that the responsibilities of the Executive Board and work of the Student Senate would not change.
The Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students would be there to “serve as an advisor, give counsel, [and] be an enabler,” in order to help accomplish the larger goals of Student Life. He would expect this role to speak with student leaders about ideas and implementations. Once the role is filled, Ross expects it to present an outline of their plans for the next five years.
In regards to Save the Union, Ross said that there is a lot he would like to learn about the movement. He said that he would “welcome a conversation with self-identified leaders of the group,” and stressed the importance of discourse. Starting a conversation and having a dialog with Save the Union are important to Ross.
The recording of this interview is available at https://poly.rpi.edu/s/rossinterview.