RPI students to protest to protect student control of student union

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TROY (WRGB) - Students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy are fighting to keep their voices heard when it comes to the student union. They're planning a peaceful protest for Friday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., but the school administration wants them to change the date.

Students say they're protesting to keep control of the Rensselaer Union - the union that has been student-run since 1890. Students say RPI's administration is trying to take control of the union by trying to hire a Director of the Union, without getting student input or following the union's protocol. Students say this has been an issue for years. They held a protest in 2016 as well.

Students planned a protest for Friday, but they say the administration denied the request because it's alumni weekend. The school says the protest would be a disruption and the school's security needs to focus on the alumni events instead, including a black-tie dinner with the school's president Friday night. Students claim the school put up a barricade around where that event will take place, to keep them out, but they plan to gather at 4:00 p.m. Friday anyway.

RPI released a statement saying:

On October 13 the Institute will host hundreds of community members and guests attending events at multiple locations across campus, including the area of EMPAC and Folsom Library. In accordance with our policies, we are working closely with Rensselaer Public Safety to ensure these events, and the pedestrian traffic accompanying them, are not disrupted. Some of the safety concerns include: fireworks, which require a specific perimeter to ensure safety; ensuring access and safety for those with mobility challenges; and maintaining the required egress for emergency vehicles.

We support freedom of speech and the students’ right to demonstrate. There has been one request for peaceful demonstration submitted for October 13. Those with expertise in event management and security determined that a demonstration would pose significant disruption of already-planned events and raises concerns for the safety of attendees; therefore, after careful review, that specific request was denied. Through multiple communications, the Dean of Students has invited the applicant for the demonstration to meet to discuss alternative dates, times, and locations for the demonstration. The applicant has thus far refused to meet and subsequently requested to discontinue the application.

The administration has made no attempt to take control of the Rensselaer Student Union from student leadership. There are a number of communication channels being utilized between students, student leaders and the administration. There are highly productive communications with the Grand Marshal and President of the Union occurring on a daily basis. These conversations are focused on Student Union staff positions and overall concerns the students have conveyed around the continued student-run Union.

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