Joint Top Hat & Derby

Finish strong and look ahead

By Cait Bennett and Yaseen Mahmoud April 26, 2021

With finals around the corner, we would like to take a moment to discuss the overall health of our Institute. The COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely detrimental to students’ physical and mental health, with many of us experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. We have been plagued with uncertainty; our education, living situations, financial wellness, and physical health rely on the precarious plans often uncommunicated by the Institute.

Lately, however, we have seen glimmers of hope indicating the end of this winding path. Nearly 25% of the US population is fully vaccinated with 41% of New Yorkers having received at least one dose. As New York State starts to reopen, certain aspects of Rensselaer campus life have followed suit. The Mueller Center reopening marked a turning point, granting students some much needed relief from the desolation of quarantine. Recently, the Institute announced that Summer 2021 and Fall 2021 are anticipated to be fully in-person, indicating a strong shift in the public health of our Institute.

We know that many of you have spent the majority of your college experience online or in quarantine. For current freshmen and sophomores, this coming year will be completely new to you, and we can promise that it will be one of the best years of your lives. The little things that upperclassmen have been excited to share with you will return: fundraisers at the 15th Street bridge, rush events at Greek organizations, and the long lines at Halal Shack for Late-Night dining. The days seem long and gray now, but soon the clouds will clear and the sun will shine.

This slow return to normalcy does not mean that you will suddenly feel relieved. Just as with the final minutes of an exam, it is perfectly normal to feel increasingly fearful now than ever before. This year has been one of the hardest both of us have experienced, and we know it has been equally hard for many of you. It will take time before you feel relief and comfort. All of your feelings—relief, depression, nihilism, and anxiety—are valid, and know that you are not alone.

We have never been as proud to be RPI students as we have been this year; the support you have all provided to one another has solidified our spirit as a united community. In particular, seeing over 180 students from the Classes of 2023 and 2024 show up in droves to a Senate meeting about quarantine conditions was an incredibly powerful show of solidarity. But the small displays of support between individual students is the most important. We urge you all to continue checking in on each other, trying out some virtual clubs and activities, and taking advantage of the spring weather. Keep your heads held high and try to focus on the days ahead.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help both emotionally and academically. The Counselling Center is available for all RPI students, and you can find other mental health specialists within the RPI/CDPHP Student Health Insurance Plan with lower copayments at Go to your TA’s office hours, take advantage of the Advising and Learning Assistance Center’s tutoring services, and ask an upperclassman for help with your final assignments and studying for final exams. Finally, remember that your worth is not determined by the grades you get. Your value is incalculable, and you are a part of what makes RPI great.