Dev Rangarajan
    An open letter to RPI
    When did the bar hit the floor?

    Dear President Jackson, RPI Administration, and the Board of Trustees,

    I just graduated from RPI, in the midst of this pandemic, and I wanted to take some time to address your response and how my experience was.

    Let’s acknowledge that you’re in a tough position. So is everyone else, but it’s especially tough because your balance sheet has crumbled to pieces over the past decade. That’s in the past, so I’m not going to rail on all the mistakes that have been made in managing this school. Plenty of people have done that, and I don’t think it’s productive. RPI taught me that solutions are more important than problems, especially in an unforgiving environment. I’m grateful for that lesson.

    College isn’t a sustainable model. You know that, that’s why you have to implement plans to have more students, make more money, etc. The fact that you are raising student expenses and delivering a worse experience because you have to do that in order to survive should make you sad.

    Your students will be fine, in the long term they’ll figure it out, they’re young, and there are tons of opportunities for innovation and this world-changing that you love to preach. What about you? If you continue on this current course of acting like a private equity raider, and squeezing every bit of efficiency out of a school you’ll be left holding nothing. This isn’t sustainable, certainly you can see the projections. What’s the plan? Stephen Van Rensselaer didn’t found this school for you to turn it into a poorly working business.

    So what’s next? It’s time to do something radical, and take asymmetric risks that have the chance of making the Rensselaer name the preeminent tech school for the new world. That’s what we all want, I promise you can keep your bloated compensation if you do that, because people will be lining up to pay. This coming year is the chance for you to take some risks, and maybe change the world (why not?)

    Online education hasn’t really been figured out by anyone yet. MIT has had open courses for years now, and people still go to college for those same courses. So clearly the information level is not what matters for university success. What does that mean? It means you need to de-prioritize lengthy lectures and regurgitation tests in favor of learning real skills and making life-long connections. I’m not an expert by any means in education, but I can tell you that your current model isn’t accomplishing those goals.

    Finally, you need to sit down and reflect on why your employees are afraid to criticize your actions, why they’re leaving at an alarming rate, and why after three years of attending your school, I’ve never seen you having casual conversations with students. People will criticize admin offices and things like arch, I don’t have a problem with those things. This isn’t the writing of some student who is blaming their struggles on you, this is an alumni who sees RPI falling into obscurity for no good reason. The bar for you is not making sure RPI exists in 10 years, it’s making sure RPI is a better school every day.

    If I’m completely wrong about everything I’ve said in this letter, then please prove me so. I’d love nothing more than for you to respond with the best plan of all time for dear old RPI.


    Dev Rangarajan ‘20

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