Defending the Voices and Rights of RPI Alumni

Dear RPI Alumni,

As you are likely aware, the RAA Board has announced its unilateral “reversal” of the bylaws overwhelmingly adopted by the membership at our last annual meeting. These bylaws sought to restore the voice of RPI alumni through competitive elections, reinstate an obtainable threshold for members to call special meetings, and restrict the RAA Board from making further amendments without ratification by the members.

This unprecedented action by the RAA Board is only the latest step in what appears to be a premeditated plan to deny the alumni’s right to amend their own bylaws. Here is a summary of key events:

  • September 28, 2019: RAA Board blocks proposals for member-initiated bylaw amendments;
  • May 14, 2020: NYS Supreme Court of Rensselaer County affirms RAA members’ right to amend bylaws;
  • June 6, 2020: RAA Board unanimously authorizes a resolution for action by its officers “to appeal that portion of the Decision and Order” regarding “the rights of members of the [RAA] to adopt, amend, or repeal Bylaws;”
  • August 1, 2020: Renew Rensselaer submits five bylaw amendments for consideration and vote of the membership at the next Annual Meeting;
  • August 20, 2020: RAA Board amends bylaws to delay member-initiated bylaws from taking effect for 90 days;
  • June 25, 2021: all Renew Rensselaer amendments pass with approximately 57% of 3,657 ballots cast;
  • September 21, 2021: RAA Board announces it has “reversed” member-initiated bylaws adopted on June 25th and further restricts the rights of members.

The RAA Board claims these amendments were adopted by a vocal minority of members, and therefore the Board has a right to prevent a “hostile takeover” of the organization. However, it must be noted that, despite the Board’s desperate campaign to “just vote no,” more than 2,000 alumni voted in favor of our proposed bylaws. This level of participation is in stark contrast to historical member involvement in the association. The current RAA president was “elected” with only 55 total votes cast, and only 1,574 alumni responded to the last RAA survey.

Rather than characterizing recent actions by members as a “hostile takeover,” a more appropriate description would be an impassioned defense of the governance rights of members against an out-of-touch, self-perpetuated, “top-down” board. In a membership corporation, the board’s authority flows up from the members.

We must also note the RAA President chose to resort to ad hominem attacks against Renew Rensselaer and our supporters, rather than attempt to defend the Board’s indefensible actions against its members. Renew Rensselaer has long advocated that alumni service and contributions to RPI will improve only when the alumni’s voice and governance rights are restored. Disappointingly, the board’s actions come only months after espousing it is now the time to build bridges among all alumni.

We continue to explore all options to defend your rights as a member of your alumni association. In the meantime, we ask that you please share this news with a fellow alumnus and stay tuned for our next update.

Renew Rensselaer