TOP HAT

Union meaningful to student experiences

Existence of student-run Union valuable to Rensselaer community, worth supporting

Reunion & Homecoming is upon us, and it is the one time of year when our campus is visited by countless alumni as they take a glimpse into their past and revisit the places and traditions that meant so much to them when they were students, while learning about what has changed across campus. It is especially poignant this year as a major tradition in an important place has recently changed—after 127 successful years, the Rensselaer Union is no longer student-run. Students and alumni have had much to say about the change, and I have been listening intently and working alongside President of the Union Matthew Rand ’19 to represent the student body.

Looking back, I have also changed from when I arrived at RPI, and the Union has shaped who I am as a person today. From the resources available within the Union, I have learned to better understand my strengths and weaknesses; particularly, how to use my strengths to improve my weaknesses. A student-run Union has afforded me incredible leadership opportunities and business and professional skills that will benefit me in my career after graduation. I recognize that these opportunities spawned from our unique, student-run Union because they gave me the chance to make mistakes, develop solutions, and learn from it all. I believe I matured greatly—and continue to grow—because of such opportunities. I know how important this Union has been to me, so I cannot begin to fathom the awesome experiences the greater RPI community has had as a result of it—students and alumni alike.

As we’ve seen from recent developments, along with other issues that have arisen with respect to the Union over the past few years, a student-run Union is clearly something the student body deeply believes in and cares for. For some, it even led to their selection of RPI as their alma mater. These students continue to show that they are concerned with the direction our Union is headed in, and their voice is clear in supporting a student-run Union, as opposed to one that is merely operated or utilized by students. Because of this, I am committed to representing the opinions and interests of the students about a student-run Union as accurately, thoroughly, and respectfully as possible.

This guides the view that we are hoping to achieve. We are meeting with administrators almost daily, where we share our constituents’ concerns about the Union. Students are making posters, taking to social media with commentary, reaching out to us, and contacting administrators because they want to be heard; they want their opinions to be known. I believe it is on us, students and alumni, to continue speaking up and sharing our perspectives for how a student-run Union has been meaningful to our student experiences. And for those of you who want to share your thoughts, I can always be contacted at gm@rpi.edu.

Now, more than ever, we are reminded that the RPI community—especially students and alumni—need to work together for the benefit of future students. RPI students in the late 1950s and ’60s contributed to make their own idea a reality by paying a higher activity fee. This funded the construction of the building that is home to our present-day Rensselaer Union, and it is important for current students and alumni to support its student-run future. Many have expressed that the unique opportunities they’ve had were only possibly through a student-run Union, and I can certainly relate. Therefore, it is imperative we ensure that the students of tomorrow be given the same chance by supporting a student-run Union today.