From the Office of the Grand Marshal and the President of the Union:
Hello members of the Rensselaer Union,
You are likely aware of the current unrest and displeasure among members of the Union over elements of RPI’s Student Life Portfolio restructuring. More specifically the element related to the Director of the Union being supervised by the Assistant Vice President for Student Life/Dean of Students, to whom they previously were a peer.
Late in the spring semester Chip, other student leaders, and I were taking part in an interview training session when we were informed of this change. When reviewing the position description with HR staff we noticed that the Rensselaer Union was placed under the AVP/DoS. After asking questions of the members of Institute HR who were running the training session, Chip and I immediately worked to schedule a meeting with Dr. Ross, who we met with soon after. During this meeting, we communicated the collective discomfort of student leaders with this change. We also informed him that we felt many other members of the Union would likely share our feelings. This was in part because this change, like the previously proposed position of the Executive Director of Student Activities, represents a fundamental shift in the Rensselaer Union’s ability to operate as a student run union as it has for over 125 years.
Over the course of the summer, we and other student leaders were involved in conversations about the direction we wanted to take in resolving this situation. We gave consideration to all options that met the needs of both the Rensselaer Union and the Student Life Portfolio, as its restructuring will help it function better as a unit. Late in the summer, Residence Life Student Staff underwent a training program. During this training the student staff were shown a graphic that placed the Rensselaer Union under the supervision of the AVP/DoS. After meeting with members of student government and other advisers, we worked as quickly as we could to schedule a meeting with Dr. Ross to discuss the matter further. We planned this meeting to explain the concerns we had and the concerns presented to us by other members of the Union who had come to us during the previous months. This meeting was scheduled during the first week of classes for the earliest date possible for all three of us to attend, which was Wednesday, September 14.
If you chose to read this far into this document, I’m assuming that you are aware that the Save our Union group restarted web and postering activities in response to the restructuring of the AVP/DoS and Director of the Union relationship around midnight on Monday, September 12. While Chip and I are not members of the Save our Union group, we understand many of the concerns they hold and are working on reaching out to members of the group to meet and discuss how we can best represent them as members of the Rensselaer Union. Members of the Union past and present care about the Union and all that it means to them, and should and do maintain their right to peacefully protest, question, and challenge decisions or actions they feel are inappropriate. However, it is important for all of us to remember that in order to to maintain a seat at the table and build upon our role as a valued stakeholder in the Rensselaer Union and RPI as a whole, we must comport ourselves with maturity, dignity, and stature at all times. We need to keep our comments, questions, and concerns focused on the matter at hand, rather than allowing ourselves to be distracted by irrelevant minutia. There is a time for everything in life, and if we care most about addressing how the Union is affected by the Student Life restructuring, we cannot distract ourselves and others by airing every piece of dirty laundry, sullied by ourselves or others, in relation to the Union or the Institute. We need to stay true to our training as technically minded individuals, and keep our discussion points, arguments, and evidence grounded in statistics, quotes, and facts which can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. While a day for discussing or verifying rumors may come, this is not the time for it if we truly believe we are fighting for the survival of something we hold dear.
Our meeting with Dr. Ross went well. We all shared ideas and perspectives on the current issues, RPI as a whole, and related matters. Dr. Ross, Chip, and I are working on scheduling a meeting for next week to continue our discussion, and all of us were left with new and challenging ideas to take home and reflect on in this discussion. However, you can remain certain that both Chip and I, along with our respective organizations wholeheartedly dedicate ourselves to not take any actions we believe will weaken or jeopardize the present, future, or legacy of the Rensselaer Union.
Thank you, and feel free to reach out to us,
Paul O. Ilori
151st Grand Marshal, firstname.lastname@example.org
127th President of the Union, email@example.com
You can download a copy of the statement here.