Outcry continues after controversial email forwarded to RPI alumni

TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Outcry continues after a controversial email was forwarded to alumni of a private university.

The professor who wrote the email is now speaking out.

The letter that’s receiving national attention, an RPI professor calling alumni racist and sexist.

While RPI’s president declined to say how she feels about the letter herself, the professor says she thanked him for it.

“I was writing to my colleague, my friends, they know me,” Chris Bystroff, a biology professor at RPI, said.

Bystroff wasn’t writing to RPI alumni. That’s the claim from the biology professor after he sent a controversial email to faculty.

It started a firestorm after the Vice President of Institute Advancement forwarded the letter to alumni.

“I could have suspected they were going to do that so I have to take some of the blame.”

He says he was responding to an article in a local newspaper about the significant decline in alumni donations over the past decade, which started around the time Shirley Jackson became president.

“The explanation was based on reputation that Shirley Jackson had accumulated.”

The interpretation is wrong. According to Bystroff, saying in his letter, “I can’t help thinking that if she were white, male, and maybe a bit taller, she would not be so quickly dismissed as an autocrat.”

He says his proof is that racism and sexism still exist in today’s society.

“We’ve seen a number of instances of racist behavior in this country.”

1994 RPI graduate Joe Templin says racism has nothing to do with the data.

“They are not getting a dime from me.”

He stopped donating about seven years ago specifically because of Jackson’s leadership.

“She actually personally stepped in and interfered with the gifting process.”

Bystroff’s email isn’t encouraging him to reconsider.

“You are a professor in the school of science and you do not have a single number that you can reference, you’re ignoring everything that is a core tenant of Rensselaer.”

Bystroff doesn’t mind and same with the administration.

A spokesperson says sharing the email with alumni wasn’t an endorsement of Bystroff’s views and that donating is an alum’s personal choice.

“I care about RPI a lot but I don’t care about the donations, that’s not my thing,” Bystroff said.

Just a few hours ago, the faculty sent an email to all faculty responding to Bystroff saying they strongly oppose any accusation of racism.

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