Save the Union

A Statement about Truthful and Open Discussion on the Rensselaer Campus

by Save the Union

It has recently been made much of that Dr. Frank Ross, during a student forum in Academy Hall, stated that "I want to be very, very clear that Director of the Union is not a student-appointed position," a statement at odds with the Union Constitution (Articles V and VII[2F]) and accepted Institute practice. That, and other statements of dubious factual value have compromised Dr. Ross' and his staff's position in our community.

RPI is before all else an academic community founded on principles of collegiality, open discussion, and shared governance. To that end, the various campus governance bodies, from the Board of Trustees, to the Faculty and Student Senates, have enacted policies (like Article V, Section B1 in the Handbook) which provided frameworks for open and honest dealings by and in the campus community. Students must not plagiarize papers, professors must not penalize students for their views, administrators must fairly oversee judicial proceedings. In an age where most prominent figures are regarded as having a loose relationship with the truth, our little outpost of academia aspires to something higher and better.

For a university to remain a forum of learning, discussion, and collegial disagreement, the niceties implicit in our values must be observed to the best of our ability. Thus, the relationships of trust that members of our community enter into with one another are shattered by actions that contravene our values. Sometimes it's easy to tell. Paper "A" and paper "B" are far too similar to be coincidental -- case closed. At other times, it's simply impossible to know a person's intention in a matter, and good faith must be assumed. But when the actions involved are the all-but-in-name dissolution of a pillar of our community (the Rensselaer Union) and the words used in justifying it are so demonstrably false, it is the community's obligation to condemn those that defy and dishonor bedrock collegiate values.

Our faculty do not accept falsified lab results from their students or colleagues, our students do not accept teachings without factual basis, and our staff do not accept defective work that endangers us. In the same way, we cannot accept bad policy from administrators that violate our own Trustees' enactments through lies repeated so often they are made to substitute for truth. The outcomes of this include alienating our young alumni, destroying students' faith in RPI, and undermining the Trustees' legal and ethical authority to make commitments the community can rely on. If rules, laws, honest dealing, duties, and facts mean nothing in pursuit of "visions" to those who lead us, we have no university.