Letter To The Editor

Racism present, but not in alumni body

By William G. von Achen January 31, 2018

To the editor of The Polytechnic:

It is difficult to imagine an institute of higher learning doing more to alienate its alumni than the recent actions of Vice President for Institute Advancement Graig Eastin. Mr. Eastin forwarded to RPI alumni an editorial letter by faculty member Chris Bystroff that implied that alumni who disagree with some of the decisions made by President Jackson are racist and/or sexist. The forward included a comment from Mr. Eastin that all alumni are “ambassadors of the Institute” and should thus read Mr. Bystroff’s diatribe. The email and forwarded polemic together positively ooze with condescension and disdain for RPI’s alumni community. Reading them actually gave me a twinge of nostalgia, for it made me remember what it was like to be a student reading communiques from the administration.

I suspect Mr. Eastin and Mr. Bystroff are correct that there is racial and gender bias afoot. However, I believe that bias is their own. They seek to insulate Dr. Jackson from all criticism of her policies and decisions, merely because she is a woman of color. They apparently do not believe she can handle critique, nor the temporary damage to the ego from being asked to step aside. This is the bigotry of low expectations.

I do not share these low expectations. I, like many alumni, think Dr. Jackson should be held to the highest standards given her sterling resume prior to her selection as president. And if the Board of Trustees ever decides to do its job and hold her to those standards, I am sure she will excel at whatever she chooses to do after she has been shown the door. Hopefully, Mr. Eastin and Mr. Bystroff will follow her.

William G. von Achen
Electrical Engineering ’00