Students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute once had the option to move off-campus for their sophomore year. In 2009, the administration opted for a new policy requiring sophomores to live on campus starting in fall 2010. This decision sparked the “Uprise at Five” protest on March 12, 2009 where over 500 students stood together against the administration’s overreach (https://poly.rpi.edu/s/22e2c).
A key point of contention was requiring Greek students to live on campus, away from their Greek houses. After negotiations with the administration, an addendum was added that students who join a Greek society in their freshman year may live off campus in their respective Greek houses after freshman year.
Six years later, the administration has once again decided that students are not fit to decide where they are to reside. As part of the new Summer Arch initiative, Greek students must abandon their Greek communities and move back to campus for “community building.” This decision was unilaterally made by the administration; fraternities and sororities were only informed of the new policy after it had been finalized. It’s outrageous that we are turning our back on the decision made six years ago. Community building doesn’t only occur in on-campus residence facilities: it happens in Troy, it happens with friends apple-picking in autumn, and it happens off-campus in the Greek community. RPI students are adults, not children in need of protection from the world that lies beyond the Tillinghast Gate. How can students be expected to truly change the world when they cannot even be left to make the simple decision of where to live?
The average cost for on-campus housing is slightly over $8,700 per year and meal plans cost roughly $5,470 per year, making the total cost about $14,000 per year (https://poly.rpi.edu/s/redx2).
Meanwhile, some Greek students pay $6,200 per year for housing and $3,200 for a meal plan, totaling $9,400 per year. The almost-$5,000 difference per year is significant at an Institute where the cost of attendance is among the priciest in the nation, an amount its matriculates’ families could financially struggle with. These are funds students can be using on travel costs to visit family, purchase expensive required textbooks and other materials for classes, and activities that serve the supposed goal of the new initiative, building community. Then again, perhaps this decision was not made to foster long-standing goals and tradition, but rather as a means to increase profit and balance budgets.
Michael J. Gardner II