You reap what you sow
I have read the letter from Dr. Bystroff, which you considered worthy of bringing to the attention of alumni of the Institute.
I am sure that you are under intense pressure to turn Rensselaer’s fundraising decline around. But surely you cannot expect to achieve this by shaming your potential donors with a diatribe that alumni responded to online as “close-minded,” “alienating,” “embarrassing,” and “unprofessional.”
Is it a surprise to you that my peers, who took on rising debt as our tuition climbed from $34,900 to $36,950 to $38,100 to $39,600, feel that we have already dug to the bottoms of our pockets to pay Dr. Jackson’s multimillion dollar salary? When the administration decided to require sophomores to live in student housing with exorbitant meal plans, were we not to feel like piggy banks being shaken out to buy her a new $3.5 million mansion? Shame on us for withholding our generosity.
It is shocking to you that students who watched their professors disenfranchised under this president became alumni who have reservations about her leadership. Today, we watch the same administration seize control of the Rensselaer Union with one hand, and hold out the other for donations from the alumni who poured time and energy into the vibrancy of that community. Shame on us for our insubordination.
Some years ago, Dr. Jackson gave audience at a “Pizza with the President” event, one of her biannual Q&A sessions with the student body. A member of one of the performing arts organizations took the mic. Why, she asked, did the president not attend their recent performance?
One could almost hear the damage-control machinery grinding into gear behind Dr. Jackson’s expression. “I didn’t know about it. I’m very busy. As much as I’d like to, I can’t attend every performance. Contact my office and we will try to fit it into my schedule.”
Unmistakably upset by the excuses, the student replied, “We send your office tickets to every show. You’ve never gone to any of them.”
I don’t know if she ever attended one of the shows. But I do know that later, Dr. Jackson stopped attending her own Q&A session, and eventually, so did her cabinet, because “they ‘devolved’ [into] little issues that are beneath the president’s attention” (The Poly, April 5, 2017). This, to me, has always illustrated the administration’s regard for the students of the Institute. In turn, this administration is deserving of the alumni’s regard for its fundraising efforts.