Creating a Welcoming and Inclusive Community

Click here to view the report in Box, and comment on the report below.


bergek wrote

It would be wonderful to have more picnic benches around campus. They are a great place for all people to meet, collaborate, and to study. 

Tue, 10/10/2023 - 12:01 PM Permalink

heuveb wrote

Yes, more picnic benches, less leafblowers!

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 11:13 AM Permalink

hahnj wrote

The general goals of the proposal are fine and I agree with all of the short term ones. That being said, I am very skeptical if we want to create an entire infrastructure  and hire a number of officials (include a vice provost, etc.) given the current state of how understaffed RPI is at all levels. At the moment, I think our main focus should be more on making sure that the things that we do are functional rather than creating an even bigger bureaucracy especially if part of this bureaucracy is focused more on making our job harder than easier. 

Tue, 10/10/2023 - 12:19 PM Permalink

platts2 wrote

1.)  Typo on p.24:  Carnegie "MELLOW" Univ.

2.)  May've missed seeing it on perusal, but didn't notice any specific mention anywhere of our actual/aspirational DEIB policies being inclusive/recognizing of folk living/dealing/coping with "MENTAL HEALTH" challenges/issues (e.g., faculty trying to figure-out creative & considerate ways to help students affected in teaching/research settings by such).

3.)  Again might've missed seeing this, but was looking for any specific mention of valuing/including/celebrating "FOREIGN STUDENTS" here (esp. thinking from external-recruiting's perspective/showcasing).

4.)  Was hoping to see the mention/inception of a taskforce for "VISUALLY IMPAIRED" students, staff, & faculty (esp. re. physical safety of top-step edge-markers).

Tue, 10/10/2023 - 1:11 PM Permalink

lif wrote

While appreciating the proposal on "to nurture belonging and foster more social interaction around holidays and celebrations where food and gatherings will take place", I would like to add that many can enjoy more options of good quality foods  on campus.


Tue, 10/17/2023 - 10:31 PM Permalink

heuveb wrote

There were tons of comments and suggestions when we had the IDEA bank open earlier this year … what happened to those? Can we please still see those again? I remember there were some wonderful specific and concrete ideas …. many ‘quick wins’ … but I have the feeling that not many of them have made it into these reports, which tend to be more long-term and abstract. If you want to create an inclusive community you need to make sure that people feel listened to and that they are part of the community, so at least please acknowledge people’s ideas that were submitted to the IDEA bank before by having them included as an Appendix to all reports…. or at least be available theough some permanent link.

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 9:06 AM Permalink

jackh wrote

To foster a better community, some of the older residence buildings need to be seriously looked at and renovated in my opinion. There are some phenomenal dorms on campus (Davison is great) and some dorms that are really bad (E-Complex). Some dorms are too small for a comfortable living environment and also offer little to no lounging areas for socialization or productivity outside of student rooms. 

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 9:46 AM Permalink

pasarm wrote

A colossal issue facing RPI is its dearth of community and socialization. As a senior, I looked back regrettably at my reclusiveness and made an extra effort to socialize and meet new people. After talking with many people, even among more sociable peers, I have not met many students who won't admit they are or have been pretty lonely. There are a lot of systemic factors that contribute to that.

For example, take Summer Arch: for an entire year, the junior class is split up. Some of these people won't see each other for an entire year. I've seen clubs fall apart due to a lack of leadership or membership. I've lost friendships that were just starting to bud due to distance. The destructive power of arch should not be underestimated; just when you feel as though you've put together a community by sophomore year, it can be snuffed out.

Additionally, RPI students tend to have a lot of work. This leaves far less time for self-care or socializing. Obviously, reducing the workload is not a reasonable demand, but this fact should be noted in order to understand the social dynamics of this institution. Furthermore, RPI students tend to be introverted and are thus less likely to go out of their way to socialize.

With that in mind, opportunities for socializing should be built into the structure of RPI in general. An obvious way to do this is to have group work in class (but this is probably not something that can be enforced top-down). Events in places RPI students frequent are very effective. Events in the Union are great and should continue. Additionally, we could have certain social events at dining halls where students will already gather. Perhaps on holidays, RPI can have celebrations and events. Since students are already off on these days, the likelihood of attendance is far greater. In order to prime students to make friends, we need to market some of these events as ways to meet people.

Meeting people once does not create community. Regularly seeing people does(In addition to having shared goals, culture, etc.). Having weekly or monthly events could contribute to that (They don't have to be exorbitant, maybe even just a study hall). Moreover, there needs to be greater awareness of large school events. There are many times when I'll go to an event and my friends had no idea it existed. And there are many times when I'll miss an event for not knowing it as well. We could have a text-based system similar to RPI Safety Advisory that informs students of large events. 

As alluded to earlier, we can revitalize RPI's rich 200-year-old culture in order to build greater community. We should bring back SIS-man. He is a beloved icon, but since he has no official usage anymore he is slowly being forgotten (Some freshmen I've spoken to haven't heard of him :( ). Having fun characters like SIS-man contributes to a shared identity, which is important. Students 3D print him, dress up as him for Halloween, and put him into their games. We should support this emblem of our community! Also, we should showcase more history. RPI is the oldest polytechnic institute in the English-speaking world. We have an incredibly fascinating history. Unfortunately, very little of it is known by the average student. Institutions like Harvard pride themselves on their history, and it contributes to a sense that every stakeholder is contributing to something greater. More of our fun and interesting history should be researched and showcased to students and prospectives!

I've also alluded to shared goals as being essential for community. I'm not sure how we can enforce that at a top-down level, as it seems like the type of thing done in friend groups, clubs, or classes. Still, it is worth noting that shared goals are incredibly important. I'm not very aware of the Save The Union movement, as it was before my time, but it seemed like an independent union was a strong shared goal and a point of pride for many RPI students. I couldn't imagine RPI students coming together now in the way that they did back then, so it was clearly a critical part of their way of life. Giving union control back to the student body would bolster our sense of community and pride in our institution.

I've laid out a lot here, but I've been thinking about these issues for a while. I hope that this can be of use because I really want this school to succeed. If you would like to discuss with me further, shoot me an email. I'd be happy to talk.

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 11:17 AM Permalink

heuveb wrote

When the call for ideas came out, there were quite a few comments and suggestions in the general corner of Sustainability. And these ideas were generally upvoted quite a bit too, so it seems like there is a good bit of desire among the community to think about and do some good work in this area. Now, it is not clear exactly which of the 5 categories of the Rensselaer Forward Plan this would be long to ... indeed, it is surprising that none of the descriptions of these areas make any note of sustainability, especially since this is such an inherently forward and future-looking concept! So, as a general comment: can the people-in-charge please make an effort to acknowledge that this is an important topic and ought to be part of any 'Rensselaer Forward' plan? Thanks!

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 11:49 AM Permalink

skomsm wrote

"A joint faculty/staff LGBTQ Task Force has also operated for years at the Institute –but remains all-volunteer, with no budget." This taskforce is made out of people who really care about our campus and the students. Financial support is needed. Supporting this group directly supports  our LGBTQ+ campus community.  Having the President present at the Lavender Graduation was a true delight!

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 12:25 PM Permalink

krugeu wrote

The aim of higher education is to equip our students with valuable and marketable skills that they benefit from after graduation.  I have serious reservations as to whether establishing an infrastructure that is not geared towards these goals primarily adds value for our students.  It is legitimate, in my opinion, to offer add-ons to raise awareness of such issues.  However, the language of "challenges current thinking" is problematic and can descent into educating our students "what to think" and not "how to think".  The current obvious problems at RPI relate to reestablishing and staffing a functioning administration instead of adding functions to the existing bureaucracy structure that are not supporting to aims I laid out in my first sentence, given how expensive it is to be a student at RPI.  In addition to that, an administrative layer is likely resulting in more work for faculty, which is not desirable.

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 1:04 PM Permalink

bennev wrote

The connection between social justice and environmental justice, which has been eloquently articulated by researchers in the literature but was unfortunately not cited in this report, underscores the critical need to address systemic inequalities and environmental issues together. Achieving a just and sustainable future requires acknowledging the intersectionality of social and environmental challenges and working towards solutions that promote fairness, inclusivity, and environmental stewardship for all. The student stakeholder group identifies "Sustainability across Campus- Having an eco-friendlier environment on campus to market RPI" as a medium-term goal for building community/culture. This is an important point and one that should also be a thread throughout the Rensselaer Forward strategic plan. 

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 11:27 AM Permalink

santoj3 wrote

As someone who is identified as a person in more than one of the marginalized groups you reference, I would suggest the following to make me feel more "welcome" at RPI: 

  • Create a navigable online presence and process for accessing information that reflects the advancement and innovation of the school, one that is easy to navigate for all persons, instead of one that leads to an overwhelming amount of broken or outdated links, or links that lead to links without any further and helpful information or the resources one is looking for. I almost declined acceptance to a "tech school" with such a poor online interface and bad departmental sites. Now in my second year of a doctoral program, I continue to find the functional links are not functional at all.
  • Invest in Troy! With a over a $1 Billion dollar annual endowment, aren't there funds in plenty to invest in the community in which you ask your students live? You ask us to feel "welcome" and included in a city that makes us feel unsafe; where our cars are vandalized; where we hear, see or read about regular shootings; where we live in decrepit historic buildings with trash everywhere and dog feces; where our nearest park is a neglected and literal trash dump; feeling welcome here is a lot to ask! RPI can be a large part of the solution and not only the asset to Troy its privilege asserts itself to be, but in return Troy will become the biggest asset to RPI as parts of it are and historically has been. 


Sat, 11/04/2023 - 1:30 PM Permalink

murram8 wrote

Along with hahnj and others, I also want to emphasize the importance of closing  gaps in staffing and creating a functional bureaucracy. As part of a "welcoming and inclusive community," we should want to support, retain, and hire staff-- without whom nothing would function!

Sometimes understaffing also has very direct consequences for inclusion in other areas of campus life. For example, I believe I'm correct when I say Disability Student Services office has only one person on staff, who is responsible for all ensuring that students with disabilities get their necessary accommodations.

Sun, 11/05/2023 - 1:42 PM Permalink

neec2 wrote

In the first bullet point of the mission statement consider changing "disabled students" to "campus members with mobility impairments/ physical disabilities". Please be mindful of person-first language when discussing topics like disabilities and note that these disabilities are not limited to the student body - they can extend to staff, faculty, visitors, etc. within our campus community. 

Sun, 11/05/2023 - 6:07 PM Permalink

murras7 wrote

As a new staff member, I was surprised to learn that RPI's paid time off is used for both sick leave and vacation. This means using PTO for things like illness or medical appointments cuts into vacation time. This presents two issues: employees will be incentivized not to use sick leave, i.e. come into work sick, thus making the campus community a less healthy environment; employees that need more sick leave for things like medical appointments, chronic conditions, or disabilities do not get to take as much vacation. I think we can all agree that time away from work is critical to overall productivity and reducing burn out. The current PTO policy puts those who may need more sick leave at an overall disadvantage in this regard and is thus not inclusive. A solution could be to create a separate leave category just for sick time that does not reduce the amount of vacation time available when used. 

Sun, 11/05/2023 - 6:12 PM Permalink

neec2 wrote

Beginning on page 3 and noted several other times throughout the report, when naming groups that are underrepresented on campus, please include students/staff/faculty with disabilities specifically. This is an underrepresented group and acknowledging that in these reports plays an essential role in destigmatizing disabilities on college campuses. On page 5, paragraph two, the report notes "minoritized people care in the Health and Counseling Centers", this would be another area to incorporate student experiences on campus with disabilities to make these statements more inclusive by nature. 

Page 6, paragraph 2, "There is no coherent strategy to visually promote, showcase, and celebrate diversity on our website and equally authentic efforts to ensure representation is embedded in how we recruit and retain students, staff, and faculty... DEI efforts should be distributed, celebrated, and promoted throughout teaching, research, and service activities at Rensselaer. Funds must be made available to support these existing and new efforts in this space." I just want to utilize this passage from the report to highlight the crucial need for expanding supportive services for students within our campus community who identify as having a disability (mental health diagnoses, learning disability, physical disability, etc.). This is one area of our campus that does not get the attention that it so rightfully deserves. Neurodiversity is a part of diversity on our campus, and that is very evident on the student, staff, and faculty level. We MUST match this with equitable services to match student need in terms of personnel, testing services spaces, etc. Currently our Disability Student Services Office is an office of one support staff, Claire Mahoney, and given the steady rise in students identifying as having one or more disabilities on college campuses across the U.S (post-COVID), it is imperative that we expand offices like DSS to aid in supportive services for our current students, but also to add to diversifying the recruitment of our students by marketing that we 1.) Have services to provide for them when they come to campus (beyond one person), and 2.) That our campus culture is inclusive by nature, and this community is welcomed on the staff/faculty/and student level. It's incredibly necessary for us to develop a stronger focus to addressing these concerns (and I'm happy to discuss further if anyone wants additional research on this topic - the conversation of accessibility is an important and ongoing one within our admissions team). 

Page19-20: Please add accessibility and ally trainings to the "inclusive education and training" sections of the Appendix, and more importantly, have it added to the "Building Community/Culture" and "Prioritize inclusive teaching/modules and advising practices" sections. Specific campus wide events and incorporating sensory friendly events on campus could be one idea, as well as accessibility, disability, and neurodiversity workshops and trainings for faculty and staff on campus. This is something that the admissions team recently covered during our annual summer retreat, and it was widely embraced. I'm happy to provide resources that cover central topics within accessibility and disabilities, which is something that I'm incredibly passionate about. We also incorporated this training for our student ambassador staff orientation as well! 

Page 24, "Enhance Inclusive Teaching, Advising, and Research Practices" - Please add accessibility trainings for staff and faculty. 




Sun, 11/05/2023 - 6:42 PM Permalink

gobert wrote

The staff sections of this document seem less developed compared to the student and faculty recommendations.  I have nothing against adding more picnic tables but that doesn't specifically address STAFF needs; anyone on campus could use additional outdoor seating.  And how would that address DEIB, anyway?  Also some things that would help the entire RPI community are only listed under student and faculty priorities in the appendices, eg. Breastfeeding and Pumping Spaces.  Perhaps a few of those priorities should be aimed not at specific sectors of the community but more as Institute-wide initiatives.

I believe that RPI needs to find more ways to recognize staff than naming one new Pillar each year and recognizing workers every five years.  Recognition events are great, but to tie this to DEIB, how about establishing a fund for staff (and faculty) to participate in outside training courses?  Then recognize those who make the effort to develop their awareness of DEIB and apply it to their own work.  If it is not already built in, add DEIB to PMTs to encourage everyone to be part of the solution.

I also wonder if there might be opportunities for staff/faculty clubs to help people get to know one another outside their work sphere.  Activities such as sports (softball, pickleball, cycling), hobbies (board games, history, cooking), book clubs, etc. can help people from different backgrounds get to know one another, contributing to a more welcoming community.

Lastly, we must acknowledge that racism, ableism, ageism, sexism and many other "isms" are endemic in our society, and inequity will continue to exist for the foreseeable future.  Whatever model is selected for RPI's DEIB program, we will need processes for reporting and correcting behavior that is antithetical to the Institute's stated goals.  Policies and procedures should be  made readily available to the entire Rensselaer community so that problems can be addressed in a formal manner, both to correct offending behavior and to empower victims.  

Sun, 11/05/2023 - 8:45 PM Permalink

gobert wrote

I wrote a lengthy comment but when I hit SAVE it disappeared.  I realize the deadline for submitting comments is today, but if my message is truly gone I would like to resubmit it.  Please advise!

Sun, 11/05/2023 - 8:52 PM Permalink
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