Dear Concerned Alumni,
Happy New Year! As Renew Rensselaer looks forward to another productive year, we would like to thank you all for your support in 2019. Last year ended on a busy note for us, and 2020 already shows no signs of slowing down!
Last month, the Rensselaer Alumni Association (RAA) held an “informal session” at which RPI alumni raised many issues centering primarily on the RAA’s finances, failure to conduct proper elections, failure to maintain and control its own membership list, freedom of speech issues on the RPI campus, and much more. At the very beginning of the meeting, RAA President Matt Siegel ’85 asserted, “I can guarantee that we won’t be able to answer all of the questions that are asked,” and the majority of financial questions went unanswered.
There were several notably concerning moments during the meeting. Many alumni had pointed out they no longer donate to the RAA because they do not feel the organization represents them, or that they have a voice in it. While addressing one alumnus, Siegel asserted that alumni who could afford a cup of “Starbucks coffee” can and should donate. Siegel had missed the point entirely: many RPI alumni can afford to give and, indeed, want to give, but are choosing not to. One of the reasons why was demonstrated soon after, when Siegel addressed a question about alumni potentially electing representatives to the Institute Board of Trustees. He brazenly declared that RPI alumni probably “don’t deserve” this. Many alumni were upset after hearing these remarks, and we were left wondering who the RAA Board truly represents: RPI or its alumni?
Following an “election” this past fall that saw more than 77% of voters reject the RAA Board-approved slate, the RAA has set an ambitious new “election” date of February 1, 2020. Despite the RAA Board having had ample time to amend the “election” process, Siegel announced the upcoming “election” will be held using the same process as it has in years prior. This means that although the fall 2019 “election” failed spectacularly and the RAA Board received plenty of alumni feedback regarding the process, it has decided not to make any changes. The incumbent RAA Board will still select the slate of candidates for approval, and only one Board-approved candidate per position will be allowed; alumni will then only have the option to approve the entire slate, not individual candidates, thereby offering no choice in the matter.
Given that the RAA has remained steadfast and opted not to change its “election” process to embrace free and fair elections, or to make other changes to the RAA Bylaws which facilitate the rights of members, we could not, in good faith, support the current process by nominating anyone. Furthermore, Renew Rensselaer will vote no on the slate on February 1st, and we encourage you to do the same. It does not matter who the candidates are or how qualified they may be for the positions. The RAA’s power is vested in the membership–the alumni–which has the right to elect and remove members of the Board. We cannot support a process that does not give alumni any choice. Until the RAA Board listens to the alumni voice (more than 77% of those voting whom recently sent a message that they are unhappy with the way things are), the only way in which we are able to send a clear message to the Board is by voting no on the RAA Board-approved slate. Please mark your calendars to attend the RAA meeting on Saturday, February 1, 2020 (in person or remotely) and stay tuned for more detailed information regarding the upcoming “election” and other updates!
Lastly, the RAA responded to our Amended Complaint with a motion seeking dismissal. This document is available in the Archive section of our website. Most notably, despite the RAA Charter explicitly stating Trustees are “to be elected by the membership of the RAA,” the RAA Board’s counsel argues, “The members of the RAA do not have a vested right to vote for its directors or trustees.” This further exemplifies the dire need to vote down the slate in order to secure our right to free and fair elections.
Thank you again for your continued support as we work to improve RPI for current and future students, as well as give alumni a voice. We look forward to a prosperous 2020 and hope to hear from you via email and through social media.