Jackson maskless at D.C. conference

President Shirley Ann Jackson was in Washington, D.C. on September 28 for the Amazon Web Services Summit. Jackson sat on a panel about the future of innovation and technology alongside “key policymakers” who The Polytechnic was unable to identify. According to summit spokesperson Carolyn Vigil, Jackson was invited to the conference because of her affiliation with the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center. The GeoTech Center, where Jackson serves as a commissioner, focuses on the “geopolitical impacts of new technologies and data.” A recording of Jackson's discussion is not currently available but will be online in the coming weeks, per Vigil.

A picture from the event, which was posted to various Rensselaer social media accounts, shows Jackson on stage with three other individuals, all of whom are unmasked and not socially distanced. The District of Columbia’s mask mandate, which has been in effect since July 31, requires individuals to be masked at all times indoors while not eating or drinking. The mandate makes an exemption for people giving speeches, so long as social distancing is maintained.

Social media users were quick to note Jackson’s lack of a mask. One Instagram user commented: “That’s such a sick mask she’s got on! Looks socially distanced too!” Another user wrote on Twitter: “Rules for thee, but not for me.” In a statement to The Polytechnic, President of the Union Yaseen Mahmoud ’22 commented that “every member of the RPI community should be following every applicable policy, regardless of their role on campus.” Mahmoud continued, saying, “These actions also prove that RPI’s current infection prevention rules are excessive. Most of the students on campus are low risk, particularly in light of our vaccine requirement, so how can they be expected to follow campus mandates—which are well in excess of CDC recommendations—when those mandates are so unreasonable that their very creators shamelessly ignore them?”

On the same day Jackson spoke at the conference, RPI’s Student Life Instagram account, @rpistudentlife, posted a campus safety reminder that “travel is strongly discouraged.”

Rensselaer administrators did not respond to a request for comment on this story.