In response to revoked approval for remote learning

By Advaith Narayan, Anissa Choiniere, Chris Vanderloo, and Bryn Clarkson December 3, 2020

[Editor's Note]: This article is a direct copy of an email sent to the student body in response to the Institute retracting all remote learning request approvals and saying that the initial approval was an "error." A full article about the retraction of remote learning requests can be found here.

Dear fellow students,

We hope you’re staying safe and enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday.

After our last communication to you, we were hoping you’d hear from us in a more positive light. Unfortunately, this email is not that. As some of you know, an email was recently sent out by Dean of Students Travis Apgar retracting approval for remote learning in the spring semester. The email cites the policy which requires first and second year students to live on campus as the reason that students' request for remote learning is being reassessed. In the wake of perhaps the most severe health crisis of modern history, the health of our student body and all other personnel at Rensselaer should be of utmost importance. Given that COVID-19 infections are on the rise nationwide, the decision to disallow students from continuing their education remotely seems almost myopic and fails to value the same priority with which Rensselaer planned its operations this fall. 

We recognize that our campus has served as a bastion for maintaining a safe and healthy campus with the COVID-19 protocols currently in place. But, in the same breath, we know that this feat was achieved with a significantly lowered density on campus and the ability for students to remain away. 

We can attest to the many conversations we have had with Rensselaer administrators about allowing operations to go “back to normal” and being met with disapproval, citing that too many decisions to “let up” can lead to a campus COVID-19 outbreak. The Union Executive Board has been working tirelessly to ensure that students and organizations are able to use the Union’s facilities and resume in-person operation in a safe manner. These plans were stifled in the fall due to the looming safety concern and attempts were made to plan for the spring without student input. Similarly, the Mueller Center has yet to reopen despite numerous financial and physical actions taken by the Union to comply with Health Center and State guidelines. Rensselaer administrators have refused to provide an explanation for why the Mueller Center was still unable to open after all requested precautions were taken by the Union.  

The decision to repopulate our residential campus—to a degree which Rensselaer’s campus hasn’t fully experienced yet during this pandemic—and not student life aspects is hypocritical and unacceptable. 

Furthermore, although the Greek community has shown their commitment to safe practices, the same practices the school uses for on-campus and off-campus housing, they are still being requested not to house Greek students in their chapter houses. The administration cites health and safety as the primary reason why no amount of students can live inside the chapter house - while simultaneously requiring higher density and forcing students to live on-campus. It’s a hypocritical stance for Rensselaer to take, especially with the chapter executive, alumni, and council oversight that has and can ensure it is done correctly. These properties are independently owned and run, and their survival depends on the ability to generate income, even if it’s with an extremely low number of students, lower than even the standard Rensselaer sets for on-campus facilities. Requiring all chapter houses to remain closed is either an extreme oversight or a deliberate attempt to harm Greek life altogether. 

If Rensselaer administrators are willing to risk the lives of students and other campus personnel by refusing students the opportunity to continue their studies from afar, why do they stand against safe in-person gatherings? Why do they stand against allowing Greek Houses to operate in any capacity?

We would like to highlight this blatant hypocrisy and condemn the actions of the Rensselaer Administration to revoke previously granted remote learning approvals. 

Yours truly,

Advaith Narayan

155th Grand Marshal


Anissa Choiniere

131st President of the Union


Chris Vanderloo

104th President of the Interfraternity Council


Bryn Clarkson

President of the Panhellenic Council