The Response of the Administration

For those who may not be aware of the effects of the motion passed by the senate, the Poly has been doing a wonderful job reporting, and is available online.  They do an excellent job of detailing members of the administrations response, as well as incorporating some of the previous issues surrounding discussion.

On the passage of the motion

On low turn out at a avenue of communication

A staff editorial

There are also a number of editorials which bear examination.

This post is addressed to many of the cabinet members who seem to be “hurt” by the senates motion.  We do, sincerely, and without sarcasm, regret the fact that these statements have caused you personal issue.  Again it will be stated:  we recognize your good intentions, and respect your commitment.  That not withstanding, this is not about anyone’s ego, or personal feelings, it can’t be, as this place and the idea it embodies are much to big and much to important.  That is why the senate’s motion clearly attempts to establish a tone of professionalism, to address issues that inherently invoke a visceral response in the best manner possible.

Despite that effort, the response they received, to a specific request for increased collaboration, was a closure of communication.

Make no mistake, we have been, and are still watching.  Trust that this will not go away, and that failing to address these issues will only make things worse.  The discontent you see today is not spontaneous, it has a cause and it is cumulative.  Past movements have seen little response, and even in this present case, where lack of meaningful response was specifically mentioned, decisions have been made not to respond to the facts presented, but to the celebrity of the issue by discussing the feelings of the cabinet.

This isn’t helpful.  To anyone.  If there are inconsistencies with the facts address them.  If there are problems with proposed solutions, discuss them.  Dr.Sams himself stated you don’t “back your opponents into a corner”.  We are not opponents.  This simply cannot be an Us vs. Them situation.  We are on the same side, and a failure to recognize that will only drive down the quality of the Institute until problems can’t be ignored.  At that point the game is over, the pieces go back in the box and energy goes into addressing problems rather than skirting them.  We’d like to skip the chutes and ladders, it’s not very fun.

All of us at RPI are interested in seeing her do well.  We are asking that you work with us to fix what we’ve had problems with.  We ask no more, and will settle for no less.  You cannot cite the tenacity and commitment of your students as a source of pride, and patronize them when it comes to being apart of the decisions that shape the core of the school.  The senate has stated, and we agree, that it is best to address these issues internally, but there are other options available.

No, we are not opponents. Do not make us out to be and back us into a corner.

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Progress, a thank you, and a call to action

Longer post, but the meat at the bottom is well worth it.

As we’ve said before, everyone here at RPI has an interest in seeing the school do well, our differences are a product of what we think that means, and, even if we share that vision, the best ways to achieve our goals.  It represents a truly difficult problem in a place with such history and such potential, one in which communication and collaboration is critical to solve.

And there in lies the rub.  We’ve heard a lot about communication here at RPI, heard about how it’s impractical for a president to meet with students, along with similar remarks.  We understand, and, to a large extent agree.  As we’ve said, guiding a place like RPI is a difficult, multifaceted job.  The truth is, people here at RPI have a wonderful amount of access to administrators right up to the cabinet.

The issue, as it has been, is that nothing has come of this access.  This failure of the management structure is problematic, as the very systems one would use to enact change are the ones which need change.  So the question becomes, how do we get the message across.

We see ourselves as part of that solution, consolidating and informing concerned parties.  Our goal is to augment the channels in place until we are no longer needed.  We called on the student senate to look into the issues that concerned us.  We charged them with the task of researching the impact of practices here on campus, and, more than that, to present this information in it’s entirety.

They have done it, and done it well, as you can see for yourself below.

Our ranks have grown to include alumni young and old, in addition to current students.  We are here to shape your voice; We are the bull horn to make it echo in these great halls for years to come.  But now, more than ever, we need to add to the chorus.  We need to make sure that the board understands in it’s entirety the student sentiment.  Understands why we love our school, why we’re here to ensure it’s success, and most importantly, why we’re not going to be going away.  Get everyone you know on our list, and we’ll make sure they get heard to.

So, again,  thank you, Argonauts.  To say the least, you’re the most, and tonight, you can proudly raise one to the ‘Tute.

 The official statement of the senate:

 Whereas the Student Senate is the chief representative body for Rensselaer students, thus giving it a vested interest in the present and future conditions for the Student Experience at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute;

Whereas the Student Senate has conducted a thorough review and compiled a report of the current state and direction of the Institute based on data available to the public, as well as interviews with members of the RPI Community (including members of the President’s Cabinet, faculty, students, staff, and alumni);

Whereas the long term vision of the Institute as well as many of the steps that have been taken over the past 10 years to transform the shape and direction of the Institute are commendable;

Whereas, based on the findings of the report, the Student Senate is concerned with the current state of the Institute and our ability to meet the goals set out in the vision of the Rensselaer Plan as well as the ability to meet immediate fundraising and faculty hiring goals;

Whereas the Student Senate is particularly concerned with the broad sense of dissatisfaction and low morale among students, faculty, staff, and alumni, particularly the opposition to the direction of the Institute and President Jackson’s leadership;

Whereas, the Student Senate is concerned by personal accounts from students, faculty, staff, and administrators, of President Jackson’s leadership techniques, including top down leadership, abrasive style, existence of fear among staff and administrators, and lack of engagement on campus;

Whereas, based on these findings and concerns, the Student Senate is not confident that even if the leadership challenges were overcome, President Jackson has the rapport needed to rally the necessary support from the broad campus community towards the next phase of the implementation of the Rensselaer Plan;

The 42nd Student Senate hereby resolves:

To request a formal review of the current state of the Institute by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Board of Trustees including confidential interviews with several constituencies, focusing on review of the impact of President Jackson’s leadership style on the unity of vision and productivity of faculty and staff towards that vision; and

To request action be taken by the Board of Trustees to move Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute forward into the next phase of Rensselaer’s transformation.

A) To request consideration by the Board of Trustees of the following possible courses of action: Significant changes be made to the governance structure such that a formal Chief Operating Officer or the like is empowered to make necessary on-the-ground decisions so that President Jackson can focus on fundraising, branding, and long-term visioning;
B) A shift in strategy be made, including a public recognition of past challenges and a redoubling of commitment to bringing the campus together around the vision of the Institute, likely including some shift in structure to empower the Vice Presidents to make more decisions and take more individual action as well as a budget commitment to hiring a temporary director to lead this culture shift from the highest levels.
Finally, if the previous are determined to be ineffective in addressing the concerns outlined in this motion,
C) The removal of Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson as President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Here’s to old RPI…

You may have heard from the Alliance for Responsible Governance (ARG), about the broad range of things you should be concerned about. You may have heard about the things that need to be examined at this school, and those are still very valid concerns.

But that’s not what today is about. Today is about a celebration. The student senate is working diligently to examine our concerns, and will be bringing them in front of the board, so today, we join RPI as she marks one more lap around the sun. There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it: RPI is an awesome place to be.

Today, we celebrate everything that makes RPI great, and our commitment to seeing it continue. So come join us in the commons circle today. Show your support for your school, and your commitment to everything it can be. Demonstrate that you’re here to support your department, support your professors, and support the change that RPI has the power to effect on the world. Come talk to the people involved with ARG. Ask us questions about what we’re doing and how you can get involved.

Also: There’s cake. You should support that too.

Remember Remember…

“I have established a school at the north end of Troy, in Rensselaer county, in the building usually called the Old Bank Place, for the purpose of instructing persons, who may choose to apply themselves, in the application of science to the common purposes of life. My principal object is, to qualify teachers for instructing the sons and daughters of farmers and mechanics, by lectures or otherwise, in the application of experimental chemistry, philosophy and natural history, to agriculture, domestic economy, the arts and manufactures”

-Stephen Van Rensselaer, 5 November 1824

Remember remember the 5th, friends.  This Saturday, our dear old RPI has her 187th birthday. Saturday marks the date of this letter, sent from Stephen Van Rensselaer, laying out the goals and method of implementation of his institute.  It details the goals that Van Rensselaer had in establishing the school, and reminds us all, that as members of the community, we are a part of something, much, much larger than ourselves.  We’ll be having a meeting in commons circle this Friday to mark the occasion (Invite friends here), for the below.

Your time here at RPI is important.  You have entered into a vision nearly 200 years in the making. It’s up to all of us here to see that vision grow.  An academic institute depends on the livelihood of the community, on a feeling of unity, optimism, and above all, determination.  We are the product of cold northeastern winters perched on a windy, ice blown plateau of a hill.  We are the result of routinely pulling all nighters to cram your skull chock-full of knowledge, and upon receipt of “satisfactory” grade, being told that you’ve only begun to scratch the surface.  That’s the game here at RPI.  That’s why our alumni go out to change the world.

Despite the fire in the belly it instills, it’s a fragile system.  In an academic realm that’s becoming increasingly commercialized, RPI is one of the last hold outs.  There’s a reason recruiters will give you some lee-way on your GPA when they see the name attached to it.  Here, the numbers come second. Here, your understanding of the subject matter is held to a higher standard, and somehow, we find a way to meet it.  That’s entirely how Van Rensselaer intended it.

And that, is where the fragility comes from.  It doesn’t take much time on campus to see that those that make up the core of our academic here aren’t happy.  Our professors have a number of things that makes life here difficult, and that keeps them from providing the education that you paid good money for.  These are things that we’ve entrusted to the institution to take care of, things which have failed.  Professors that do stay here, do so out of a love of the academic community here.  That is a credit to RPI, but not necessarily the administration.  Indeed, we are here, we are upset, because we feel the hands of our teachers are bound, and fundamentally the community that took the better part of TWO CENTURIES to make is being undermined.

When I hear professors that have been here for the vast majority of their life describe the situation as dismal, I worry.  When I hear past GM’s tell me that receiving the publications RPI puts out to inform alumni makes them sick, and they refuse to come back for alumni weekend, I wonder if my degree has bought me access to the alumni support other schools have.  I wonder why professors don’t want me to share their names when I talk to them about these things.  I wonder why it is that people who were clearly doing this community good, were dismissed.  I wonder how long all of it can last before the whole system collapses.

But after our last meeting, after all the support we’ve been receiving, all the people we’re working with, the alumni who have reached out to us, the media outlets we’re coming into contact with, I have moments where all I wonder is how I ever thought that last question could be anything more than a thought experiment.

This is OUR school.  The quality of your education is at risk.  Your access to our vibrant community of alumni is being deteriorated.  You have almost no say in how the tuition money you worked hard for goes to use, and neither does the community that you paid it to have access to.  The system, it would seem, is due for an inspection.  The good news, is despite the prevailing pessimism, despite the stagnancy that you may have come to view as inherent, we HAVE the power to address these problems.

So this November 5th, come be outside commons with us, as we remember remember a November 5th 187 years ago.  We’ll have a quick rally, and then we’ll be asking all in attendance to help distribute materials.

Stephen Van Rensselaer said it best: “Whether my expectations will ever be realized or not. I am willing to hazard the necessary expense of making the trial.”  We owe him the same commitment. It has been realized, and there’s no way we’re letting it slip away without a fight.

We are ARG.
We are here until it’s done.
We are an inherit product of problems in the system and will therefore only be gone when they are.
Get used to it.

Now then, who wants to help change the world?

Ask Us Almost Anything

Come on over to Reddit for an open discussion about ARG in preparation for tonight’s meeting.

Meeting Tomorrow Night!

The first in-person ARG meeting will be taking place tomorrow night:

Date: Thursday, October 27th

Time: 8:30pm

Location: RPI Chapel + Cultural Center

RSVP & Invite Friends

Please note, this is an organizing meeting for those interested in our cause and wanting to help it move forward. General information meetings/rallies may be coming later.
ARG Meeting on 10/27 at 8:30 at the Chapel & Cultural Center

Click Image to Download PDF

Our Perspective

RPI, from its inception, has been a school focused on “furthering the boundaries of human knowledge.” While that phrase has turned into somewhat of a sound-byte, I urge anyone reading this to take a minute, and let it sink in. Nearly 200 years ago, a group of individuals came together with the focus and drive to assemble a place where individuals could learn, and apply, things that were entirely new to the human race. That’s an amazing concept.

This led to generation after generation carrying out that goal. We produced thought leaders, change makers, and world shapers, time and time again. That is the legacy, and the vision, that every member of the community has become a part of, and it’s a truly inspiring thing.

The fact is, however, that making that kind of an impact requires enormous dedication. It requires one’s focus on a given passion, devoting time and energy to a specific goal, inherently at the cost of others. For this reason, responsible governance, the maintenance of a productive environment, is of paramount importance. This need is further exacerbated here by the fact that RPI’s disciplines of excellence generally don’t include studies which create skill sets allowing one to examine the efficacy of practices in place. We produce far more rockets and rocket fuels than we do administrators.

Nonetheless, it would seem that the time has come to take a thorough look at what the effect of the policies in place is. For quite some time now, numerous policies have been enacted that raise the concern, and indeed sometimes protest, of the faculty and student body. It is an important mark of a leader to be able to act in such situations. An effective leader must be able to continue moving their constituency forward even amongst turmoil. It’s a difficult task, which is why roles of leadership are held in high regard.

Despite the difficulty, and the inherit charge of continuing in the absence of consensus, no leader is beyond reproach, and certainly not beyond examination. Thus, many of us feel the time has come to distract ourselves from our real passion, the focus of our studies, to ensure a suitable environment for ourselves and for posterity.

Fundamentally, we reject the information that has been provided to us on the state of affairs as unbiased, and are therefore moving to gather this information for ourselves. This will take time, and it will take much effort, but it is absolutely critical. We seek to form a comprehensive wealth of knowledge on the status of the institute, including with equal weight what seems to be working, what isn’t working, and what is inconclusive at this time.

From this, we can draw conclusions about where we need to go, and what needs to be done. It is only by establishing our current position, clearly and concisely, that we can decide the best course to take towards our end goal.

We are ARG. We welcome all those who share these concerns and this vision to join us.
rpiarg@gmail.com

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In an effort to incorporate more people’s opinions, concerns, and knowledge, we have joined Facebook. Friend us here to stay in touch: http://www.facebook.com/rpiarg

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So the S&W has an interesting article this week:

State of the Institute S&W Article

Pick up an S&W or click this image to read the article. Much of this information is not new, but it is a great summary of the concerns. Be sure to recommend this to your friends.

Interesting article, is it not! Be sure to leave your comments here!