Letter To The Editor

Discussion appropriate

By Debbie Miele-Wen ’94 February 7, 2018

On January 29, 2018, Graig Eastin, vice president for institute advancement, forwarded to all alumni an email authored by Chris Bystroff, Ph.D, addressed to faculty. Eastin wrote, “Because you are all ambassadors of the Institute, I wanted to make sure you received a copy.”

Bystroff’s January 22 email begins by admonishing alumni (“Shame on you”) who were mentioned in a recent Times Union article. He attacks by implying they are racists and sexists; (because they have serious concerns about the direction and financial health of the Institute?) He goes on to blame the faculty for the decline in donations. He concludes by airing resentment about being “shouted down” by faculty at a Faculty Senate meeting that occurred years ago.

It is unfortunate that he did not use his email as an opportunity to present why he feels that the administration has put RPI on a strong financial footing. But if the denigrating tone and lack of evidence-based argument is any indication of his persuasive style, he might well consider bearing some responsibility for the outcome of that Faculty Senate meeting. But, hey, this is the email the administration points us alumni to, in order to help us be ambassadors for RPI.

I do agree with Bystroff on his point that one does not “abandon your family when they disappoint you.” But, extending his analogy, neither should one continue to support a family’s habit by giving them more money—not until there is an intervention and the problem is remedied, or until it is definitively shown that there is no problem.

Over the years, students, faculty, and alumni have voiced constructive criticisms of the administration. I have found students’ reports and rallying about their concerns to be rational, respectful, and evidence based. They did their homework and the foundation of their criticism has been careful analysis. It is wonderful that RPI has such wonderful citizenry. Ditto regarding what I have read in the Times Union about that group of alumni. Going public couldn’t have been an easy decision for them.

This is not to say that all the criticisms have been correct. But there has been enough to warrant discussion and committed attention.

I have not seen equivalent fact-based, cogent arguments from the administration over the years. This is not to say that such arguments could not have been made by the administration, only that on the whole there has been inadequacy in doing so. And I have been disturbed over the years by the administration’s response to criticism—often resorting to denigration and division—and by the Board of Trustees’ response, for their appearance of apathy and dereliction of fiduciary duty.

Shame on me for not voicing my opinions earlier.

I am proud of RPI students, faculty, and alumni—the best of the best. Mr. Eastin: these are the RPI elements that should be focused on, for fruitful Institute ambassadorship.

Debbie Miele-Wen, Class of ’94