Jackson, Eastin, Bystroff out of touch
President Shirley Ann Jackson and Vice President for Institute Advancement Graig Eastin recently endorsed an email attributing a decrease in alumni donations to racism, sexism, and heightism. If they truly believe this, it is a testament to their disconnect with alumni, the student body, and the issues that Rensselaer faces.
There are plenty of genuine concerns with Rensselaer and its governance that are in no way associated with the president’s gender, height, or race. We would like to list a few of these concerns.
Rensselaer’s endowment, compared to that of its peer institutions, is frighteningly low. A sizeable endowment allows for flexibility and innovation on campus, and serves as an indicator of stability in regard to a school’s finances. It would be one thing if it were simply weak at a single point in time, but Rensselaer’s endowment growth over the past decade has been notably slower than that of any of its peers.
Another pressing concern is the lack of communication and transparency—the administration as a whole feels inaccessible. In the past, Jackson used to host Pizza with the President, which then became Pizza with the Cabinet, which ultimately became nothing.
When the Rensselaer Union needed a new director, student representatives were barely included in the discourse until candidates had already been found—and then control of the Union was wrested from students soon after. This issue has been cited time and time again, at town meetings and protests in the past two years, and the administration has failed to establish consistent, respectful communication about it with alumni and student groups alike. This past year, Jackson reinstated the Student Leader Clambake—a step in the right direction that we would love to see more of in the future.
The allocation of money toward student resources is also an issue. Foremost, the student-faculty ratio at Rensselaer is very high; this is evident in the large class sizes and in the lack of seats during registration. For a self-proclaimed “polytechnic institute,” Rensselaer is very outdated: Wi-Fi connections are often slow or intermittent and many campus buildings and resources feel insufficient or antiquated.
Additionally, it feels as though input on the student experience is being ignored; the required on-campus housing and meal plans for sophomores are extremely frustrating for many. There is currently very limited housing and dining space on campus, and with increasingly large incoming classes, trying to find on-campus housing and dining space has become a nightmare. Furthermore, when the Arch Summer Semester was first announced, it was met with outstanding student backlash; the Institute proceeded to ignore the outcry and continued to require it for future students.
We understand that the Rensselaer administration cannot cater to all the student body’s whims. But it does exist to support students in their professional and personal development; the administration must prioritize the success of its students.
We sympathize with the discrimination that Jackson encounters—she is a fellow human being, with feelings and a personality—and would certainly love to see the return of in-person interviews with The Poly to provide a humanizing perspective. But, the fact remains that the current state of affairs leaves much to be desired, which is a separate matter from sexism, racism, and heightism against Jackson. Until the Rensselaer community’s concerns are confronted, rather than dismissed, we believe that the president and members of her administration will continue to be poorly received.