Letter To The Editor

My concerns with Eastin, Muhammad’s email

By Stephen M. Platt '77 April 19, 2019

My wife and I are alums of Rensselaer, and are on the Rensselaer Alumni Association mailing list. I received an email from Vice President for Institute Advancement and Interim Executive Director of RAA Graig Eastin and RAA President Kareem Muhammad. In summary, Eastin and Muhammad brush off the Renew Rensselaer claims that the RR continued the RAA meeting and elected a new RAA board. The email states that RAA bylaws were not followed, and that RR members do not speak on behalf of the RAA, let alone now control it. The email continues with ongoing disparagements and claims on RR activities.

I imagine that some of Eastin and Muhammad’s claims may have foundation. However, as an alumnus, what concerns me is the complete failure by the RAA to address the Renew Rensselaer key claims; in particular, the claims that the RAA has not held a legitimate election in a long time, has not been running proper and open meetings, is operating in violation of New York State laws, and has been acting to make it increasingly difficult to challenge the existing Board in any manner.

Many alumni support these concerns and would like to see full and detailed responses.

However, my main concern is that Eastin has a history of confrontational approaches to opposition. As reported in the Times Union on February 6, 2018, he has forwarded, to the entire alumni body, emails stating that people—alums in particular—who have pulled funding have done so because they are racist and sexist. I have not seen responses that have soundly addressed RR issues, only written denigrations of RR and its supporters. (I note that Muhammad, on behalf of the RAA, refused to support the forwarding of this message).

I found the message insulting: a giant brush-off of any concerns that alumni may have. The entire tenor was one of an ad hominem attack (although not a proper or true one), on the legitimacy of the opponent instead of their concerns. I find this problematic.

I would like to hear greater input from Eastin and the RAA addressing the concerns. Better, I would like to hear how Eastin and Muhammad would like to meet with Renew Rensselaer, identify key issues and eliminate false ones, and construct a plan that both groups can use to achieve resolution.

Dissent is normal within groups. A healthy body, like the alumni body as a whole, accepts this: dissenting groups respect each other’s existence and can discuss issues. Unhealthy bodies work to ignore the issues and delegitimize the opposing group. I am afraid the alumni body as a whole is, right now, unhealthy. I would like to see the two groups work towards becoming a healthy body again.

Stephen M. Platt, Ph.D. (RPI: CS, 1977)