In February of this year, The Polytechnic published an Editorial/Opinion in which I wrote to introduce myself to the Rensselaer community and to provide insight into the philosophical approach I take as a student affairs administrator. In that piece, I described my devotion to student success and personal growth, campus safety and security, working toward a truly inclusive community, and improving the well-being of our students. I also included in my writings an appreciation for Rensselaer. I remain committed to supporting our students, our student organizations, the Institution, and our alumni, as does President Shirley Ann Jackson and the entire administration.
Let it be clear, Rensselaer values the student voice and free expression. Rensselaer equally values a safe and secure campus. Recently, an unauthorized demonstration was held during which attendees were observed breaching the barriers in place for another event in that area, creating safety and security risks. The Dean of Students Office has an obligation to address observed violations of Rensselaer policies. In alignment with a key philosophy of the Rensselaer judicial system, “to settle issues as informally as possible,” staff will meet with the students identified as involved and counsel them on the importance of complying with Institute policy, and the risks that violating policies creates for the individual and/or the community. This process often results in no judicial consequence or determination. Most importantly, these are educational moments.
I went on in that February article to write specifically about the Rensselaer Union: “There is no doubt, we have a shared responsibility for the Rensselaer Union and I believe strongly that we need students to continue to lead as we look to the future of the student experience and to achieve all that this community has identified as goals. The relationship with the Office of the Dean of Students is a partnership. I see our role in this relationship foremost as support; as advisors to guide and counsel, not to direct; and, to provide consistency in the transition from one Union administration to the next, as President of the Union Chip Kirchner ’17 described in last week’s Derby column.”
My position on the Union has not changed. The Rensselaer Union continues to be student led and student run. Our goal is to maintain that arrangement. Students have been, and will continue to be, included in hiring and evaluating the staff assigned to support the Union.
It is truly unfortunate that there are those who have taken advantage of the community by maliciously promoting inflammatory, at times threatening, and often insulting misinformation about the University administration. This community deserves to know the full story. The administration is here for students and is helping students succeed and supporting them every day. While the rhetoric being pushed may grab slight attention from media, it doesn’t make it true. Furthermore, it is irresponsible to suggest to students that they cannot trust the staff who are solely here to support them. It is upon all of us to come back to the table and identify the ways we will work together through collegial discussions.
We are committed to continuing our work with the Student Senate and Union Executive Board to identify what it means to be a student-run union. By the time this is published, I will have already communicated with a number of student leaders, inviting them to continue, or to begin, to engage in discussions with the goal of identifying how we move forward together. I sincerely hope they will accept; I am optimistic.