February 5, 2018 Status Update

Dear RPI Alumni,

Thank you for choosing to sign our Platform. Your support is critical to the success of Renew Rensselaer’s campaign to enact positive change at RPI.

Last week, you likely received an email from Graig Eastin, the Vice President for Institute Advancement at RPI, who had forwarded a message from Professor Chris Bystroff directed at alumni. In this email, Professor Bystroff attributed the downward trend of alumni donor participation to alleged bigotry of RPI graduates. Due to the resulting controversy, we have added analysis to The Untold Story to refute Professor Bystroff’s claims.

Despite a downward trend in alumni participation over nearly two decades, gifts increased in dollar terms from Dr. Jackson’s arrival in Fiscal Year 2000 until around 2006. Below is a chart plotting Gifts and Bequests to RPI (adjusted to 2017 constant-dollar values) and a three-year trailing average to compensate for normal fluctuations in giving. This data strongly suggests Dr. Jackson’s Rensselaer Plan was supported by donors through donations in its early years.

Learn more in The Untold Story

In addition, you may also have read the follow-up article in The Times Union, which included an interview with Professor Bystroff where he shared Dr. Jackson’s response to his original message. In the email, Dr. Jackson expressed her belief that Professor Bystroff was brave for sending the message and appreciation for his speaking on her behalf. That story was followed by an opinion piece, commentating that while Dr. Jackson has certainly been a trailblazer and shattered many glass ceilings throughout her career before arriving at RPI, “her time as the school’s president has been unnecessarily adversarial.”

Many alumni have reached out to us to express disappointment that anyone would suggest their lack of financial participation was the result of  bigotry or intolerance, let alone their alma mater seemingly endorsing this statement. Most importantly, we stand by our originally stated goal of providing thorough data and analysis to RPI’s alumni, allowing them the opportunity to gain knowledge with regard to the diminishment of RPI’s financial, academic, and governance standards.

We believe The Rensselaer Plan, initially adopted in 2000 and updated in 2012, has not yielded its intended results, necessitating a renewal of RPI’s strategy of achieving both its short-term and long-term goals. Notably, the administration, under stress to deliver on The Rensselaer Plan, has at times taken action during the past two decades that reflect desperation as well as a penchant for top-down, autocratic management, unfortunately resulting in a negative impact on the entire RPI community.

Most importantly, we ask you to contact your fellow alumni who may be aware of the current challenges facing RPI; whether through sharing our website via social media, email, chapter meetings, or in-person conversations. Additionally, we ask that you send a letter to the current Rensselaer Alumni Association President, Kareem Muhammad ’01, requesting the RAA contact all alumni and urge them to review our findings on the Renew Rensselaer website.

We believe positive change is necessary, but only possible if the Board of Trustees sees significant alumni dissatisfaction, admits The Rensselaer Plan has not produced its intended results, and recognizes the importance of alumni support. RPI desperately needs a renewal of its strategy, focus, and management. Your support of the Renew Rensselaer Platform is an admirable first step.

Renew Rensselaer