Student Senate

Provost discusses first year at Rensselaer

Provost Rebecca Doerge met with the Student Senate for a round table discussion on general student topics. She shared her experiences from her first year at Rensselaer, reflecting upon past successes and laying plans for things she hopes to improve in the future. In the meeting, Doerge put a heavy emphasis on the reorganization of administration and the simplification of the chain of command at RPI. She wants to focus on the quality of the student experience, a task being made possible in part by RPI’s Division of Student Life being moved under the Provost's office. Doerge expressed that she believed the independence of the student body was “part of the secret sauce of RPI,” and wanted to allow more students to be involved in changes to student life at RPI.

The discussion brought up numerous ways in which Doerge has already begun to simplify how RPI works, on both the student and faculty ends. She has worked to make The Arch program more beneficial for students by setting up productive meetings between the Student Life and Academic Affairs branches of the program . She has also begun an initiative to make summer sessions for select classes available to people outside of Arch, granting more opportunities to retake them. In addition to these successes, she was also very proud of her implementation of a testing center for students with accommodations. The testing center is available three hours a week for students with accommodations. Students began using the room just before spring break with positive results. Doerge has high hopes that it will continue to be useful in the future.

One of the recurring topics of the discussion was the excused absence policy implemented by the administration in late 2023. The policy, which lifted the requirement for students to submit a form from Student Health Services for up to five days of missed class, was written three years ago but only put into action recently. One key element of the policy that Doerge identified as missing was discussion and understanding of the policy from faculty and student leadership. However, while Doerge said that she should have waited longer to implement the policy, she still sees no fault in the policy itself. “I would’ve still made the same decision,” she stated at the discussion. “It was a fail [in] the way I approached it…faculty have asked me to retract it, and I won’t.” Above all, Doerge saw this experience with RPI’s policies as “a good lesson to learn,” that will allow her to better communicate changes within the school in the future.

Ultimately, Doerge wishes to restructure the culture of RPI. She is putting her faith in the 51 new faculty members who have been hired since she got to RPI. She believes in the new wave of staff to create a friendlier, more transparent culture at RPI, and playfully warns older members of the Institute that, while they are welcome to add to their movement, they shouldn’t “get in our way.”

This Senate Meeting was held on March 11. The Senate meets every Monday at 8 pm in the Shelnutt Gallery.