President Shirley Ann Jackson held her annual Fall Town Meeting on Thursday, November 2. The objective of these meetings is to allow members of the Rensselaer community to learn about recent and upcoming events at the Institute.
The meeting had an unprecedented amount of security surrounding it, including bag checks and metal detectors. Upon inquiry, Jackson said those measures were in response to “very vile, focused, threatening emails” she had received regarding issues with the Union. These kinds of messages are beneath anyone who claims to be involved in civil discourse.
Many students and alumni took advantage of this opportunity by preparing and asking thoughtful, relevant questions. We appreciated the more informal tone of this meeting and the amount of time that was devoted to the answering of questions, as this allowed conversations to revolve around topics that are important to our community.
There were some comments that we found concerning. When one student referred to director of the Union as being funded by the students’ “self-imposed tax,” or activity fee, Jackson interrupted and clarified that the Institute charges that money to matriculating students, and that the position is “funded by the university.” This takes away from the spirit and history of the activity fee, which students did self-impose in order to create the beginnings of the Union.
In addition, Vice President for Human Resources Curtis Powell said that “the Union’s just like a reality show.” This comment, while perhaps meant in jest, is demeaning to those who have taken issue with recent events and to those who devote their time to preserving the essence of a student-run Union. After all that has transpired, it is clear that this is more of an issue than comparing it to a “reality show” would acknowledge.