Save the Union

President’s Fall Town Meeting Summary

Fall 2017

The Rensselaer Union

  • Jackson asserted that nothing has changed, meaning she likely never considered the Union to be student-run—at least not from a legal perspective (or so she says now). So how was RPI raving about it being something special all these decades and centuries?
  • Jackson doesn’t consider students as funding the Union through self-taxation because the Student Activity Fee is paid to the university. As Jackson says, the Union is, “...funded by the university. Any money that is charged to matriculating students is money the university is charging them. That’s the legal thing.”
  • Jackson’s response to the petition that has been signed by 5,363 students and members of the RPI community (and counting) in support of a student-run Union was that it “reaffirms our support for the Union and the fact that the Union is very strongly part of Rensselaer,” as opposed to addressing the very issue of the Union no longer being student run and the thousands of signatories finding this unacceptable.
  • Jackson claims she has received vile threats as a result of this situation, citing this as the justification for the security at the Town Hall Meeting.
  • Jackson still doesn’t trust students to control anything because she largely expects students to eventually cause an issue, such as acting in discriminatory fashion (her only example was the Kim Jong Il campus posters with her head on his body).

Director of the Union Search

  • The administration thinks student changes to the PMT have been incorporated and they’re moving on from that process; this is not entirely true, as many of the items adding administrative control to and within the Union remain.
  • The same two candidates will be interviewed by the Executive Board next week and the administration hopes for a recommendation so they can move on with Jackson’s selection and appointment.
  • Powell claims the press from the Union situation lead to eight candidates dropping out; this does not add up as he initially announced narrowing the candidate pool from fifty to five candidates (who participated in video interviews) before presenting students with the current two options.
  • When a student questioned why students didn’t have control over the job description and performance review for Director of the Union, Jackson called the statements “patently false” despite knowing the students’ major suggestions to the job description had not been accepted and student participation in annual performance reviews had not occurred in some time, though it used to be standard practice.
  • Jackson repeatedly claimed she and her administration support the Union, but that doesn’t mean she will allow a group of students to control the hiring of the director.
  • She expects the director to mentor students (as they have in the past) while also controlling the daily operations and direction of the Union (as they have not in the past), all while continuing to claim “nothing has changed” with regards to the Union and how it operates in the last two or five years.
  • Jackson cited “you can have a situation where there’s a discriminatory act” as the reason for not committing to allowing the Executive Board’s approval vote to be anything more than an endorsement she may choose to ignore; this is in opposition to the Union Constitution and paints Jackson as a liar for stating “nothing has changed,” as this does not align with the history of the EBoard’s involvement in the hiring and continuance of all Union personnel as recently as this year.

Protest and The Wall

  • Agpar stated he offered to meet with interested and involved students after the initial protest applicant withdrew his interest because his application was denied, but no one came forward except for a recent alum; the initial protest applicant happened to be present at the Town Hall Meeting and rebutted Apgar, stating Apgar had expressed he wanted to meet with him even after the protest denial and he was willing to meet, but Apgar never got back to him.
  • Citing commencement at ECAV as the example, Jackson explained the “wall” was a normal response for “certain special events” like the capital campaign, and canceling classes/closing buildings was a result of having to suspend normal operations on account of the events happening in the area that day.

Institute Finance

  • The debt has been slowly decreasing; at one point, this administration had borrowed $1.3 billion to make the Rensselaer Plan goals a reality and for faculty positions and campus upgrades...though we suspect “campus upgrades” mostly refers to new buildings, as Jackson referenced at one point.
  • The current goal is to reach the “crossover” point—when the debt becomes lower than the endowment. Interestingly, this is a point Save the Union has repeatedly criticized the current administration on: the debt being larger than the endowment, as a fiscally-responsible university would not operate in this way.
  • The legacy-defined benefit pension plan accounts for about $150 million of the debt; Jackson bemoaned how the debt would be lower than the endowment had they not had to borrow for the pension plan...but they had to and did, and the pension plan constitutes a small fraction of the debt, yet was the primary focus of her response.
  • When questioned about the dropping credit rating, Jackson replied that S&P isn’t the only credit rating and that Moody’s is the main one and RPI is an A3 with that rating system.
  • Jackson also pointed out that S&P recently changed the way they calculate credit ratings, as if that would account for RPI’s lower rating.

Capital Campaign

  • Jackson gives overview of the campaign and its three pillars (bridging the gap, faculty, and campus).
  • $400 million has been raised to date, but this amount is dated from a “reach-back” (suspected to be the year 2008); Jackson offered to supply the exact date to the person who asked the question after researching it.
  • In spite of the “reach-back” to previous years that contributed toward the $400 million figure, Jackson claimed a significant amount of money was raised within the last year.
  • The Institute is counting any and all gifts and pledges made to RPI as part of the campaign, in addition to corporate grants. This includes money donated before the campaign was announced.