I love RPI, but I feel deceived
To say I have fallen in love with my school is an understatement. Since I’ve arrived at Rensselaer, I have far more than profoundly come to admire so many of its qualities: the small, green campus, the uniquely beautiful buildings, the feeling of community within our class, and the endless array of opportunities to learn and grow as a science student. Amidst this awe at the place I now call home, I’ve also felt fear that the obvious tension between administrators and students will impact my time here. I’m afraid that my peers are right in their belief that the money I pay for this education is being misused and misplaced into things other than what it was intended for. Though this fear came from many things, much of it was borne of the seemingly deafening anger of students all over campus, and the simultaneous silence of administrators.
I first heard of the discontent within the RPI community just weeks after I committed, when, in an effort to do anything other than study for AP Physics, I was looking at the RPI Facebook page. I eventually noticed the “Reviews” section, and immediately after I clicked it, I was accosted by an array of one-star reviews and angry paragraphs. Flooding my screen were complaints that the Rensselaer administration was suppressing the free speech of students and that the university was amidst a downfall of its integrity and honor. There were claims that alumni donations would not be given until major changes were made, and, overall, there was an overwhelming sense of disappointment.
Understandably, I freaked out a little. I had just signed a contract promising thousands of dollars to an institution I was meant to stay at for the next four years of my life. I had spent weeks tortured over the decision to spend more money on this “higher” education, rather than go to a state school for far less. At the moment, I questioned whether it was all worth it. But ultimately, I was unwavering in my decision. RPI was a creative, challenging school with unmatchable opportunities, and a few angry Facebook reviews were not enough to catalyze more than momentary shock. To read of discontent and frustration from select students and alumni was definitely unnerving; but in no way did it compare to the feeling of arriving here and seeing that this sentiment wasn’t just one that belonged to a minority. It was not simply a casual complaint, but rather an outcry. That feeling was altogether terrifying.
During my first week on campus, just as I was becoming comfortable with where I was, I was also becoming acquainted with the booming voices of frustrated students. As I took morning runs across our sunny, green fields to visit each of the buildings I would have classes in, I saw, for the first time, all of the posters littering our campus. Next to flyers about our many clubs and student activities were flyers that boldly claimed “SAVE THE UNION” or brandished statements about attacks on student rights. During that week I also took my first walk into Troy, and just moments before I stepped down the approach and shook the hand of our president, I was handed a “SAVE OUR UNION” laptop sticker—one that is now affixed to the back of my and my friends’ computers; one that I looked at and held as I took in the beautiful city around my school and first experienced the town that I now live in. I couldn’t imagine a warmer reception to my new home than that first week, but I also couldn’t imagine a more surreal introduction to the student issues happening on campus.
Since I’ve come to this school, I’ve learned so much about both the history and the current state of my university. I’ve been told we are growing exponentially, that this university is being honorably run towards a bigger, better future. I’ve also been told that we are being screwed over and disregarded as a student body. I have heard that students are being ignored and even oppressed by the same leaders telling us to speak boldly and “change the world.” I’ve been told that “free speech” is a thing of the past. My entire class was thrown into a crossfire of information from both our peers and administrators. I love this school—my school—and all of its many charms and curiosities, but I also cannot help but hear the tiny voice in mind, egged on by those concerned voices, asking, “Did I make the right choice?”