Following a successful protest in Spring 2016, Dr. Jackson announced that the executive director of student activities position would be removed from the Division of Student Life. This announcement, in addition to others promising communication and openness, was met with rejoice from the student body, faculty, staff, and alumni alike.
Nearly a year would pass before the search for a Director of the Union would become serious again. With the cover of summer, the RPI administration posted the position of Director of the Union without student input on the job description. Students formed a Senate and E-Board committee once they returned to campus, however, a memo from VP for Human Resourses, Curtis Powell demonstrated the administration's disregard for the student process. Dean of Students, Travis Apgar, seemingly clarified the administration's position by stating, "It is critical to understand that there is no conflict between the authority of the institute and that of the Union in this matter," in a memo released just days later.
Seemingly behind the back of VP Apgar and students, Dr. Jackson and the Executive Commitee of the Board of Trustees took it upon themselves to forcibly amend any policy, including the Rensselaer Union Constitution, that contradicted their vision of the Student Union. Never has our governing document been so willfully trampled upon. The end of a student-run union marks the end of shared governance on the RPI campus.
The time has come that we all feared. Without its ability to self govern, the Rensselaer Union should no longer be considered student-run. We must act now before we have nothing left worth saving.
Control of the Student Union has been taken by force, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t rally support for the Union and see to it that the administrative groups who systematically stripped the Union of its student governance are held accountable. Our student governed Union is the last shred of shared governance on campus. A positive future for RPI depends on us preserving and advancing a student-run Union’s goals.
The biggest impact alumni can make is by refusing to donate to the Institute until this issue is resolved and the administration relinquishes their hold on our Union, and we urge you to withhold donations in a show of solidarity. Please join us in sending a clear message to Dr. Jackson and the Board of Trustees that usurping our student-run Rensselaer Union is unacceptable.
For over a century, the students of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have run the Rensselaer Union, and it's a source of pride on campus as one of the few completely student-run unions in the country. Stripping away autonomy and independence from the Union will strip away much of RPI students' way of life.
Most directly, the members of our 200 clubs, 46 sports, and countless students who use the Union as a study and meeting hub. But this failure of Institute governance in the cause of power consolidation undermines the faculty, academics, alumni contributions, and the credibility of the Institute.