Top Hat

We need to redefine the campus climate

By Meagan Lettko April 10, 2019

Why not change the world? This is the slogan that once greeted us all when we chose to visit, apply, or interact with Rensselaer during our college decision process. I remember picking RPI because of the unique combination of rigorous academics, world-renowned engineering programs, and competitive athletics—not to mention the incredible East Campus Athletic Village facilities. I still love this school for all of these reasons, however I can’t help but notice my peers don’t feel the same way.

Every day I hear complaints, negativity, and disgruntled opinions related to academics, campus culture, or simply the weather. It doesn’t seem right that so much of our daily lives involve dwelling on negativity. Was this always the climate of our campus or has this been manifesting over the past couple of years? I believe that our campus needs revitalization, a morale boost, and overall school spirit.

Building identity and characterizing our campus is certainly a challenge. We have over 250 clubs and organizations across our campus of approximately 6,000 undergraduate students and 1,200 graduate students. In order to change our campus climate and morale, we need to find ways to collaborate and work together to support student initiatives across all of our organizations and groups. I believe as the leaders of our generation we are used to facing challenges and solving them. However, I find that most people get lost in the details of their own interests and commitments. It is hard to imagine an identity that fits all RPI community members when everyone goes through their daily lives stuck in their own world.

Historically, Rensselaer was first defined as the first engineering institution and it was only comprised of male students. Then, its identity shifted as Greek life defined the majority of the school. Women were introduced into the student body and the identity changed yet again. Today, our identity is so vast that we lose sight of what links us all together. For this reason, as a community, we need to prioritize defining our identity and our legacy for generations to come. I believe this will start in the Union.

The Union has the unique ability to interact with all students regardless of their own personal identity. As we move into a time of radical change, it is imperative that we define our identity as a student body for now and for the future. By harnessing our student body identity in the Union, we can start to create change across our entire campus. It will take a commitment from every student on our campus, but I believe that an identity cultivation is possible. This change will start with the partnership between student leaders and a commitment to leaving our campus better than when we found it.