Realities of remote RPI

By Anissa Choiniere September 16, 2020

Taking on my new role as president of the Union has meant trying out many new things. So far, the one that has put me the most out of my comfort zone is becoming more active on the social media platform Reddit.

Since making a Reddit account (u/anissachoiniere), I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the frustrations of my peers on a deeper level.

When I was deciding whether or not to commit to Rensselaer in the spring of 2016, the main determining factor was the series of protests held by students unsatisfied with the actions of the Institute administrators. Don’t get me wrong, at the time, I had very little understanding of the actual situation in question. However, what left a lasting impact on me was the fact that RPI students were standing up for what they believed in. They were willing to challenge injustices and to speak up for themselves.

The passion exhibited by the student body over the past several months has reaffirmed my pride in being a student at RPI.

Topics of concern frequently voiced on Reddit and other forms of social media include administrative decisions, COVID-19 planning, Greek Life, The Arch, and more. The one closest to home for me, however, is the Union activity fee.

The Union activity fee is one the few remaining student run elements of the Union. Each year, members of the Executive Board spend hours presenting and breaking down each line item of club and Union administrative budgets to benefit the needs of the student body. The efforts of fiscal year budgeting result in places to study, new water fountains, intramurals, fitness classes, club sport teams, safe spaces for protected classes, free legal services, concerts and comedy shows, the Clubhouse Pub, and student employment opportunities for those who may not qualify for work study.

In the current, remote reality, are you receiving the same benefits of the activity fee?

If you ask me, no. Online education does not compare to on-campus learning and virtual student activities do not translate perfectly to in-person student life.

Whether you’re the student in three clubs who frequents the Mueller Center and spends your meal swipes at Late Night in the Rathskellar, or the one who only wanders into the Union to take advantage of the convenient study space between classes, you are not getting the normal benefits of the activity fee. The Executive Board and the Union are working hard to maintain the close knit nature of the community of students at RPI that stems from common passions and hobbies. Through virtual “Quarantainment” programs featuring trivia events with gift card prizes, escape rooms, movies, and concerts, there are ways to hang out and connect with other students.

The Mueller Center is in the process of finalizing a plan to operate in compliance with Institute and State rules while holding remote fitness classes and intramural fantasy sports leagues. Clubs can still meet virtually to connect with each other and support campus through sponsored movie nights, fundraisers, and more. Under social distancing guidelines, they can continue to meet in groups less than 10. The Executive Board is working on a plan to determine what type of events clubs can use reallocated funds for to make the most of Fall 2020. You can learn more by coming to our meeting this Wednesday at 8 pm EDT in my Webex room:

With all of these measures, are you able to fully benefit from a full fall semester Activity Fee? Are you able to make the most out of a fully or partially remote semester? In my opinion, still no.

As your President of the Union, I will work as hard as I can to make sure that your bursar bills reflect that. I would be naive to think that I can do this alone after my five years in student government and with the knowledge of the struggles of my forebears. Students of the Union, I ask you to remain passionate and to keep speaking up. Advocate for yourselves and each other. Ask that Rensselaer administrators acknowledge the realities that we face while living and learning as a part of this remote RPI. How can we be expected to change the world if our alma mater won’t validate us?

Please feel free to reach out to me with comments, questions, or concerns at