Renew Rensselaer Update

Dear Concerned Alumni,

These are challenging times for us all, and I hope this email finds you in good spirits and health. I would like to update you on behalf of Renew Rensselaer regarding several important developments over the past few months and to seek your assistance as now, more than ever, we need your support.

RAA Board’s Bylaw Amendments – The RAA Board continues to quietly entrench trustee self-perpetuation while muzzling alumni concerns regarding RAA governance and RPI’s decline. On June 6th, the RAA Bylaws were amended to remove the right to elect officers from the members. This means the incumbent RAA Board will now select the president and other officer positions. Additionally, the Board’s nominating committee will still fully control who is placed on the ballot, and “elections” for trustees will be decided by plurality vote. As a result, members are no longer able to reject the Board’s pre-selected candidates. Concerningly, these amendments were not circulated to the RAA membership following adoption.

Member-Proposed Amendments to RAA Bylaws – In accordance with the rights of members, as recently affirmed by the NYS/Rensselaer County Supreme Court, some members recently submitted a petition to the RAA Board to place five proposed bylaw amendments before the membership for its vote. If adopted at the forthcoming Annual Meeting, these changes would bring about competitive elections for trustee and officer positions, thereby rightfully restoring the voice of all alumni within the RAA. I invite you to review the proposed amendments, together with an explanation for each, here.

The RAA Board is obligated to put these proposed amendments to a vote at the next Annual Meeting (likely to be held virtually later this year). Following several inquiries to the RAA’s president seeking clarity on the process for notifying alumni and voting on the proposals, Renew Rensselaer was merely advised the Board will adopt a procedure which is “practicable and compliant with the law.” From prior experience and the RAA Board’s history of noncompliance with applicable laws, we remain guarded. We will keep you apprised about the details of this meeting when published, and we will need your full support at this meeting to vote to adopt the amendments in order to bring about much-needed changes to the RAA’s governance!

Donations Needed for Legal Expenses – The RAA Board remains unclear about how it intends to comply with the Court’s decision and law, and the RAA Board’s unpublicized bylaw amendments should be of great concern to all alumni and must be countered. It is clear Renew Rensselaer has more work to do, and this has caused us to remain actively engaged with our legal team as we continue to assert member rights, ensure the RAA complies with the court’s decision, and improve overall governance of both the RAA and the Institute. As you might expect, those costs are significant, and for this reason we need your support and ask each of you to please consider donating to the Renew Rensselaer Legal Fund. We remain hard at work as we make the most of this opportunity to restore alumni rights, and with your donation we will be one step closer. Every donation, at all levels, is meaningful, and all donations will be used in our mission to restore RAA member rights.

Donations may be made by check or electronic payment. Checks may be made payable to “Renew Rensselaer Legal Fund” and sent to: Bill Criss, 547 Wales Notch SW, Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469. Alternatively, click here to donate electronically. I would greatly appreciate it if everyone could contribute–any amount helps. Thank you in advance for your contribution. You have no idea how much it means to have your support as we pursue such an important goal.

Student Life – Meanwhile, the campus environment remains a challenge for students, faculty, and staff. Restrictions on Greek Life have intensified, student rights continue to erode, and there have been faculty and staff lay-offs. While all universities have suffered negative financial impacts this year, it is clear that RPI’s weak financial condition has left it especially vulnerable to enrollment uncertainties, student lawsuits, housing needs, and the increased costs of supplies for dealing with the Coronavirus.

Renew Rensselaer continues to believe that major improvements in governance practices, as espoused in our Platform, will lay the groundwork for supporting RPI’s academic rankings and competitiveness through the all-important rebuilding of RPI’s inadequate endowment. We believe that once such improvements are realized, more alumni will take notice and be inclined to donate. Until then, thank you all for your unwavering support, especially recent graduates.

Bill Criss ’68, ’69G
Renew Rensselaer