RPI students hold ‘teach-in’ for control of student union

TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Hundreds of RPI students protested on Wednesday for control over their student union.

The union has been student-run for 125 years, but now Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is looking to hire oversight, which students fear will suppress their leadership.

Students are outraged after finding job listings for assistant director and director of student affairs on the RPI website. The director of student affairs position is normally hired by students.

“It’s been supported by students, run by students, controlled by students the whole time,” student Gregory Bartell said.

As students chanted and cheered outside the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center building, inside, RPI Pres. Shirley Jackson held a town meeting. She spoke with NEWS10 afterward to explain that there’s a misunderstanding regarding the degree of autonomy for the union.

“I think they’re misinformed of what they’re protesting about,” Jackson said. “There’s no plan to disband the student union. Never was, and there’s not one now.”

But students also disagree on how their tuition is being spent. They said the EMPAC building was an over budget project that cost the school millions, which doesn’t do much for students on campus.

“Many students never use the building for anything because humanities and arts is not really our main focus,” student Erica Braunschweig said. “We feel like there are bigger issues that the money could be spent on like dorms and academic buildings.”

Dr. Jackson said hiring for the two positions in students affairs is now put on hold while the board of trustees reviews the union constitution. But she believes some university oversight is needed to help the student union.

“They decide what clubs to recognize, what clubs to fund them with, and I hope they’ll do it for the next 125 years, but they are part of the university,” she said.

Dr. Jackson has asked the board of trustees to decide whether any changes are needed to the union constitution, and the board will meet with students directly.

Until then, hiring for the open positions in students affairs are put on hold.

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