Last week, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Travis Apgar wrote a letter to the editor of The Polytechnic (poly.rpi.edu/s/5bmq2). In his letter, Apgar accused an unnamed group, which we can only assume is Save the Union, of spreading misinformation and engaging in attacks of rhetoric. Apgar wrote, “This community deserves to know the full story.” We could not agree more. The full story needs to be told, the facts displayed for all to see. We ask the RPI community to compare not just the rhetoric, but also the actions of all those involved in this ongoing situation.
Apgar wrote that this unnamed group has “taken advantage of the community by maliciously promoting inflammatory, at times threatening, and often insulting misinformation about the University administration.” Upon reading this, we immediately reached out to him and Vice President for Strategic Communications and External Relations Richie Hunter requesting that they “please engage in a discussion with us.” As we take great pride in our accuracy, we asked them to provide specific examples in which we have promoted inflammatory, threatening, or insulting misinformation about the RPI administration. We committed to address any legitimate concerns they and other members of the administration might have. We even offered to make corrections to our website (www.savetheunion.xyz) and reach out to other media outlets if necessary. To date, they have not cited any specific instances of misinformation. They have forgone the opportunity to engage with us, despite repeated claims of a genuine desire to discuss the situation with concerned students.
In his letter, Apgar also professed the importance of coming to the table to “work together through collegial discussions.” Merriam-Webster defines collegial as “marked by power or authority vested equally in each of a number of colleagues” as well as “marked by camaraderie among colleagues.” What an ironic word choice on many levels! Firstly, the Board of Trustees and the Jackson Administration do not view RPI students as “colleagues” and would never treat them as such. In fact, the Board’s recent resolution obliterated what was left of shared governance on campus. This is proof enough that RPI students are treated like children, even if these very Board members were not treated the same way during their time as students. Secondly, a collegial environment involves sharing ideas freely, but when students attempt this at RPI they are oppressed and inundated with judicial action. Clearly, we are willing to engage in discussion. Unfortunately, the Jackson Administration is more interested in intimidation over conversation.
Apgar seems to consider much of what we say simply as “rhetoric” we’re pushing to “grab slight attention from the media.” Alas, it is the administration’s failure to uphold its own policies and commitment to freedom of expression that has thrust it into the national spotlight. We have not yet initiated contact with the national media ourselves. But going so far as to punish its own students for peacefully expressing a dissenting opinion over the operation of the Student Union, the Institute is bringing this unwanted attention upon itself. However, local and national outlets are increasingly seeing through the Institute’s tired rhetoric and reporting on their alarming actions. Topics like students’ careers hanging in the balance over opposing their school’s administration, the trampling of student rights on a college campus, or the Higher Education Act are worthy topics that clearly deserve the light of day.
That aside, Apgar again proclaimed, “The Rensselaer Union continues to be student led and student run.” Unfortunately, this statement is nothing new. If only repeating a statement over and over would make it true, but those pesky facts come back into play. Time and time again, we have asked both Apgar and other members of the administration to clarify this and similar statements with respect to the Trustees’ September resolution. A tenet of Save the Union has always been that responsibilities were wrested from students over the past several years, yet students want to have and embrace those responsibilities. We seek to restore them. We are a movement born from students who want to learn and grow from the unique opportunities the Union once afforded. The administration has yet to provide any sufficient explanation, and Apgar’s letter represents another missed opportunity. Although this was one of the questions included in our email to Apgar and Hunter, it went unanswered.
Apgar’s letter to the editor amounts to nothing more than another serving of the same tired platitudes that the RPI administration has spun for decades, all the while dismantling our beloved traditions like the Rensselaer Union and destroying any semblance of civil liberties or student rights on campus. It is more rhetoric, directly contradicting the administration’s actions. Their words cease to have meaning anymore as they cannot be trusted to follow through with what they say. The RPI community has lost faith in the Board of Trustees, Dr. Jackson, and her administration, and the only way this faith could potentially be restored is through actions, not hollow words.
And so dear, old RPI (or what is left of it)… there you have it. Sadly, the “new normal” at RPI has reached an all-time low because the Board of Trustees and Jackson Administration demolished shared governance and frequently intimidate students and student leaders in an attempt to further their agenda. The Institute is crippled by debt, and to add to this, it is now mired in negative press about its poor treatment of students, making RPI a place of which we are quickly becoming ashamed to say we attend.
But we have not given up, and we will not give up. We will continue to share the full story: peacefully, proudly, and persistently.
Save the Union