Renew Rensselaer Update

Dear Concerned Alumni,

Renew Rensselaer would like to update you on topics impacting RPI students, alumni, and the entire RPI community:

Amendment to Renew Rensselaer’s Legal Complaint: On November 6th, Renew Rensselaer filed an Amended and Supplemental Complaint with the New York State Supreme Court in Troy. This supports our causes for action with new facts and evidence from the Rensselaer Alumni Association’s (RAA) September Annual Meeting; specifically, i) results of the alumni voting, which rejected the slate of candidates and actions taken by the Board since the prior Annual Meeting, ii) evidence of the RAA President and Board’s denial of the members’ right to amend the Bylaws, and iii) evidence of the RAA’s failure to maintain its own membership list and to provide access to it as required by law. The RAA has been allotted 45 days to respond, following which we anticipate a ruling of the Court. We continue to believe all claims made in our Complaint are valid. If we are successful in asserting the governance rights of alumni, we believe the RAA will provide a more effective channel for alumni opinions and concerns to be expressed to the administration and Trustees of the Institute.

New Rules Restricting the Free Speech Rights of RPI Students: Over the summer, the RPI administration adopted changes to the Student Handbook that further impinge upon the established free speech rights of students. The new rules prevent students from distributing materials on campus without the administration’s express, prior permission. Furthermore, the new rules fail to establish any objective criteria for which such permission would be granted. After receiving news of these changes, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent yet another letter to RPI’s General Counsel expressing its strongest objections to date and citing RPI’s further restriction of students’ free speech rights. FIRE’s letter remains unanswered by RPI. It is worth noting, FIRE has ranked RPI on its list of worst universities for free speech for two straight years. We agree with FIRE that this is and should be cause for alarm and immediate action must be taken on the part of the RPI Board of Trustees. Free speech must protected and encouraged in a university setting in furtherance of its educational mission. 

Update on 2019 Summer Arch: Differing reports have arisen regarding the outcome of the 2019 Summer Arch, the first year for which this program was mandatory. Earlier this fall, the Student Senate undertook a survey of the juniors who participated in the program. About two weeks after this survey, the Vice President for Student Life and the Provost sent a memorandum to the Student Community under the heading “Arch Full Implementation Update.” The newly-released Student Senate survey results demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of survey respondents–78%–were unsatisfied with the Arch following their participation. We encourage you to review the survey results, as well as the administration’s memorandum on this topic to draw your own conclusions.

Financial Results for FY 2019: On November 1st, RPI posted its Annual Report and Consolidated Financial Statements for FY2019. The Institute reported stronger operating results than in recent years, reflecting the impact of peak enrollment during the fall and spring semesters, in addition to seven weeks of the first full year of Summer Arch. The results were also aided by a small increase in research revenues, although these remained 15% below the peak level. RPI’s strong operating results were offset by its heavy burden of debt service payments, increased costs for pension and health benefits, and a competitive pricing environment for new students. Attracting students has become increasingly difficult due to declining demographics for high school seniors, especially in the Northeast, as reflected in the increased acceptance rate and decline in yield. In FY2019, RPI accepted 47.4% of students who applied. The Institute’s challenge is to remain competitive over the long-term, given its limited reserve of investable resources. A more detailed analysis of RPI’s recent results is available here. We will be refreshing our website and have posted the new Annual Report and audited financials to our archive in the interim.

Our Commitment to the Mission of Renew Rensselaer…and How You Can Help: We would like to emphasize that our recent focus on the governance issues of the RAA has not made us lose sight of the challenges facing the Institute and our original goals. We have continued to monitor the campus environment, financial situation, and external rankings while also updating the data on our website. With that in mind, we ask each of you to make an extra effort in the coming weeks to reach out to at least two new alumni friends and contacts, make them aware of Renew Rensselaer’s mission, and ask them to support our Platform. Our current supporter base of 1,250+ alumni has already made positive changes in the RAA’s governance and Institute’s messaging. Expanding our base of support is critical to furthering our larger goals for improving RPI.

Lastly, on December 7, 2019 at 2 pm EST, the RAA will be hosting an “informal session…for alumni to engage with the RAA Board” on campus in the Darrin Communications Center, Room 308. We encourage all RPI alumni to attend, whether in-person or remotely. More information will be forthcoming regarding this event, as well as the upcoming RAA election scheduled for Saturday, February 1, 2020.

Thank you for your continued support, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Renew Rensselaer