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.