Not the Rensselaer Handbook is intended to be a source of invaluable knowledge concerning the activities of students at RPI. It is written to be used as a reference guide to not only surviving at RPI, but for surviving with style. You could almost call Not the Handbook the ``Passer-by's Guide to Rensselaer.'' However, we won't. Not the Handbook is not intended to be used as a collector's item, a scholastic aid, or a measure of the literary skill of the students involved, but rather as a tool to aid current, past and future students of RPI, in their attempts to live at and work with the school.
The staff of Not the Handbook would like to thank the many hours of help it received from: the Association of Computer Machinery for the funds to digitally prepare the text; the Archives Department of the Folsom Library, whose staff were most helpful in preparing the history section of the text, and for other random items of information; and the Information and Personal Assistance Center for their cooperation with our Chapter of Lists investigations. Finally, we would like to thank the entire school for being the crazy institution it is, for how else could this thing be created?
Not the Rensselaer Handbook is the views, opinions, and experiences of the staff of Not the Rensselaer Handbook. It is not intended to reflect, and does not necessarily inflect, the views of the faculty, staff, or administration of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, any group of students of the Institute other than the above-named Not the Handbook staff, or anybody else.
An Unofficial RPI History of RPI
A Short History Course
For a school a mere one hundred and sixty years old, RPI is soundly buried in historical events that seem uniquely peculiar to an engineering school. Those oddities obscured by time, error, or deliberate cover-up were the events sought after by Not the Handbook's staff of researchers. We wish to thank the Rensselaer Library's Archives Department for their assistance in our efforts. Their collection is, to no one's surprise, second to none on this subject.
Amos Eaton was a major figure in the early part of RPI's growth as an Engineering School. The man, however, came into a good bit of trouble in his later years when he became connected with the corrupt land deals concerning the building of the Erie Canal.
Amos Eaton Hall was started as a project by president Ricketts in 1928 to build an auditorium large enough to hold the student body which was then around 1500. The actual costs of the building are unknown, as Ricketts contracted it along with the Caldwell dorms in the Quadrangle, but it has been estimated at $300,000.
Another notable character in Rensselaer's history was Russell Sage. Russell Sage's name appears on almost as many buildings as does Jonsson's. There is the Russell Sage Laboratory, the Russell Sage Dining Hall, and Russell Sage College in downtown Troy. As a matter of fact, most colleges in New York have at least one building named after him. However, the story behind these institutions is far more bizarre than meets the eye.
Russell Sage was never a student at RPI, and his influence and contributions toward the school while he was alive were small in scale when compared to what his second wife made. Sage was born the seventh child of a poor farming family from Connecticut. He first moved to Troy at the age of 13 to work at his older brother's grocery store. He soon became a little Horatio Alger in small trade and later in paper money options. By the time he was 24, he was a member of the Troy City Council, a bank director, and a money lender. He then married a pretty young woman, Maria-Henrie Winne, who was the daughter of a local lumber baron. They moved into a posh Washington Park home that Maria's father gave them. Russell became very interested in politics, and in 1844 became the city treasurer. From 1844 to 1849 he kept the city in the black with his judicious use of city funds. He then ran for Congress in 1850, but was defeated. This did not deter him, and in 1852 he was elected to the representative seat for Troy under the Whig party. It was at this point in his political career that his economic rise was to begin.
Sage's first big deal was over a railroad project that involved Erasmus Corning and other local political figures. He pushed through a project that involved the City of Troy buying a railroad from Sage for $700,000. This same railroad had recently been purchased by Sage for a mere $200,000. Sage quite openly bragged about his five hundred thousand dollar profit, justifying it by pointing out how much money Troy would save by owning the railroad. The scheme backfired, however, when Corning and others worked the railroad away from Troy.
After the deal in Troy, Sage went on to bigger things. He is responsible for most of the major railroad development in Minnesota from 1852 to the end of the nineteenth century. He was noted for being careful, and yet taking risks and profiting very well from them. It was at this period in his life that he moved from Troy to New York City and began to speculate on Wall Street.
On 7 May 1867, Sage's wife died of stomach cancer. After the funeral, Sage was a very solemn and depressed man. He devoted the rest of his life to the accumulation of money.
In 1869, Sage was involved, and later convicted, in a case concerning the Usury Laws in New York state. He was fined $500, but his jail sentence was suspended. He was accused of being the gang leader in a usury group. Later that year, Sage married his second wife, Olivia Slocum.
Olivia Slocum was a school teacher from Troy, who had attended the Troy Female Seminary, now known as Emma Willard School. She was forty-one when Sage married her, he was 53. The marriage was not out of love; Sage needed someone to call his wife so that he would not be the prey of ``seduction lawsuits.'' There is no indication that Olivia and Russell ever really cared for each other, and it seems even less likely that they were ever intimate. Sage continued to have affairs with beautiful and exotic women until his later years, after which he settled down to doing his serious profiteering.
Sage was elected onto the Institute's board of Trustees on 24 June 1896. His only relative to attend RPI was a newphew, Russell Sage, Jr., who graduated in 1859.
Sage died in 1906, during a vacation that his doctor requested he take to get away from the business. Apparently the withdrawal killed him. His wife Olivia found herself with a $70 million estate almost overnight. She immediately established the Sage Foundation to aid in promoting social and educational causes. It was in this way that this school teacher from Troy, who was at the time the wealthiest woman in the US, began to make contributions to education. In particular, she fought for better women's education.
Olivia Slocum Sage made two large contributions to RPI. The first was funds for the building of the Russell Sage Laboratory, which was to house the new Mechanical and Electrical Engineering departments. At the time RPI was primarily a Civil Engineering school. When Palmer Ricketts, then President of RPI, sent her a letter suggesting the building of these departments, Olivia replied with a letter which said, in effect, ``Good idea.'' To lend some weight to her letter, she also enclosed a check for $100,000. Eventually, the total sum donated for that purpose reached one million dollars.
The other major contribution came in the wake of a new addition to the Quadrangle dorms. During the planning for the White dorm extensions, Olivia Slocum wrote President Ricketts stating that she would offer $100,000 for the construction of a dining hall. This hall was to be named after her nephew, Russell Sage, Jr.
Eric and Margaret Jonsson
Eric Jonsson, a dedicated Rensselaer alumnus of the class of 1922, and his wife Margaret, have done much to improve the appearance and facilities of RPI. Their first major contribution came in 1961 when they gave the school a gift which led to the construction of the Science Center, on a 20 acre site of land that the school had just purchased from the Catholic Seminary in 1958.
The next major gift to Rensselaer was $2,600,000 toward the construction of a new engineering center. The initial cost estimate for the building, as given to the New York State Dormitory Fund on 4 March 1975, was $11,808,100. While the Dormitory Fund did cover some of it, a 30 year bond was taken to cover most of the cost of the building. RPI intended to cover the bond with gifts, despite the annual payments of $202,000.
The actual groundbreaking was to be initiated by Margaret Jonsson; however, she was in Dallas, Texas at the time. A small charge was set up to be detonated by a phone call that Mrs. Jonsson made ... thus the term ``dial-a-bomb'' came to be the description of the event on 15 April 1975, at 11AM. The '86 Field became the ``'43 Field,'' as construction equipment and much of the fill that was excavated for the basement of the Center (4000 cubic yards) was placed on the playing surface, cutting the field almost precisely in half down the long axis. The half of the field which was buried with fill became known as Mount Fogarty; it was two stories tall. The Jonsson Engineering Center opened in August 1977, and became a center piece of the ``Rensselaer 2000'' plan.
The Chapel became the school's second computer center, with the donations of Alan Voorhees and the insistence of RPI's students. In 1977 a study was completed detailing options for a new computer center, to replace the Amos Eaton facility and house the 'brand-new' IBM 3033 (see Myron in Tute Speak). The study was to choose among three plans. The first two proposals sought to build the center on top of or below the Armory Parking Lot. The third plan suggested renovating the Seminary Chapel, which was empty as of the opening of the Folsom Library. The Chapel was not favored by either the architecture group doing the study, nor by the Trustees, but a student referendum overwhelmingly chose the old church building as the site, remarking on the aesthetic beauty of the Chapel versus yet another ``high-tech'' edifice. According to students who were present at the time these decisions were being made, the student referendum did not really amount to a hill of beans; the item which tipped the scales in the favour of the Chapel as a computer center was that the estimated cost of the Armory computer center nearly doubled between the initial cost estimates and the final decision. With Alan Voorhees' $3.4 million gift (the largest single donation in RPI's history) the Voorhees Computing Center went under construction. The center opened on 9 Oct 1979.
The center is unique in that a small building was constructed inside the old chapel. To save energy costs, the heat generated by the computer within keeps the building warm in the winter. The new IBM 3081D computer now resides in the basement of the VCC. Unfortunately, the new machine does not produce the heat that the 3033 did, and people were worried about the possibility that they would have to install a real heating system in the computer center; however, it turned out that the IBX telephone system generates more heat on its own than the 3033 ever did. And since the IBX is housed in the VCC, heat is suddenly no problem. Of course, the air conditioning systems have had to be beefed up ...
Libraries at RPI have always taken a back burner to the more pressing needs of the research and education departments. The first Rensselaer Library was in the Main Building in downtown Troy, which was instituted in 1864. When the Main Building burned down in 1893, the library was moved to the Alumni Building. After the Pittsburgh Building was finished in 1912, it was chosen as the location of the new library. There the library remained until President Ricketts finished Amos Eaton Hall, in 1928, which became the Institute's fourth site for a library.
The Amos Eaton Hall served as a library until around 1961, when the Chapel and University Building were purchased by RPI. The Chapel was 'renovated', and in the place of pews went library shelves. By 1965, the Chapel was the main library. The Amos Eaton building became the Mathematics building, and housed the first real computing center at RPI. Here Fat Albert, Godot, Myron, and other, smaller, unnamed computers would later reside. The Chapel was a problem as a library, however, as its useful space was quickly filled with shelving.
By the early 1970s, a referendum was under way to increase library space on campus, as part of a national library drive on college campuses. It was during this turbulent period that the question of expanding the Chapel or building a new library, probably on the site of the University Building, came up. The Institute's president, Richard Folsom, was quoted in the Troy Record on *.* as having said, ``the last thing this school needs is a new library ...'' Despite this, a new building was commissioned in the early 1970s.
The Richard Gilman Folsom library was dedicated on 15 May 1976. It cost $6,900,000, holds 500,000 volumes, is composed of 10,000 cubic yards of concrete, and seats a maximum of 900 students. The library is named after the twelfth president of RPI; according to legend, it was so named as a final spit in the eye, since Folsom had kept the 'Tute from having a library for so long. The ground breaking ceremony was held in the spring of 1973. It is a fine library for a school that has traditionally shunned vaults for its texts.
A History of Computing at RPI
[ This section was not written. ]
Buildings which Move
Since you have been on this campus for a while, you have doubtless heard of the existence of several buildings which are, to quote the vernacular, ``sliding down the hill into Troy.'' If you are like the average Tute student, however, you do not believe these stories at all. There are such buildings, however; what follows is a list of them, how they were discovered to be moving, and what, if anything, is being done about it.
Contrary to its name, Walker Lab is the only building on campus which is absolutely, positively, not moving. It is built on the only outcropping of bedrock which appeared on the entire lower campus, and is generally used as the reference point against which all other building movement is measured.
West Hall is built on a section of the hill which is, in fact, unstable. This was discovered many years ago, when Civil Engineers actually had lab classes in the use of the transit and other surveying instruments. Every two years, a class of juniors and seniors would go out and survey the campus. One year, a Civ. E. professor downgraded an entire section because they had measured West Hall as being six inches further down the hill than it had been two years before. The section protested, claiming that their measurements were accurate, and insisting that the professor check them for himself. The professor did this, and discovered that, in fact, West Hall was seven inches further down the hill than it had been two years earlier. Going back over earlier surveys, he also found that this represented a trend.
The professor did not, of course, change the grade that he gave the section. After all, they had still put the wrong position down on the map.
There is an engineering solution to every problem, and this one was no exception. The problem was, the land under the building was shifting, and there was not (and still isn't) any way to stop the earth from moving. So, long steel cables were run underground through tunnels and tied to the foundations of the Sage boiler room. Legend has it that there were originally four cables, and that only three remain, one of them having been cut through long ago by student dissidents.
The Folsom Library
There were two blunders made when the Folsom Library was built. First, the building was originally designed with the floors bowed upwards, with the intent that the weight of the books would bow the floors back to level, and slightly stress the walls. The idea was that this would make the building as a whole more durable. Of course the construction crew didn't understand this concept, and the building was built with level floors, which are now bowed slightly downward with the weight of the books.
Next, another architect calculated the necessary capacity for the foundation without realizing that the building was a library. Because of this, no allowance was made for the weight of the books within the building. Books, as you probably know from carrying them to and from class, are heavy, with the result that the entire building is on its way into Troy. The land formation which the library was built on, however, is much more solid than the soil under West Hall, and it has been calculated that the library will be about due for replacement by the time that the subsidence starts causing trouble with awkward slopes on the plaza between it and the VCC. However, the one inch per year subsidence rate may cause the library elevator to become useless by 1986, due to the shaft going out of true.
The Communications Center
The Communications Center was built on two different land masses. The 15th Street end is solidly on bed rock, and is not about to go anywhere; the end nearest the JEC is resting on an old river bed, and is slowly sinking into the mud. This is not instantly apparent, unless one looks in the tunnel between the JEC and the CC (which is available to anybody who knows how to get down to the first floor of either building). In this tunnel, there is an expansion joint, which was level when the tunnel was built. Needless to say, it is no longer level.
Again, the subsidence rate is minimal, and it will be many many years before the walkway to the JEC falls down. A much more worrisome problem to those of us in the CC is that the building may break in half, due to the uneven settling. Cracks are already appearing in the building, which will be aggravated by the construction of the CII; and doors in the CC have had to be rehung because of the doorframes changing shape.
As if the CC's cup of woe did not already run over, the 15th Street end of the building was built on top of an underground stream. This stream was not completely blocked off when the building was constructed, and still tries to flow into the place where the building is. This becomes evident in the air handler building just uphill from the CC, where the stream runs in and enters the air system, and on the first floor of the CC directly under the loading dock, which floods regularly every spring, despite the best (?) efforts of Physical Facilities.
The 15th St. Lounge (the Playhouse)
The Playhouse was originally purchased from the U.S. Army, for the sum of one dollar. (Or so tradition has it.) The Army then moved it, at their own expense, by truck, from North Carolina, to put it in its present location. Since that time, it has not moved much; it has been renovated, but that did not entail moving it at all.
The Hirsch Observatory
The Hirsch Observatory originally housed one medium-sized telescope which was used by the Astronomy Club for practice using the sort of equipment which existed in the real world (i.e. outside of RPI). When Generous Electric donated another, better telescope in 1982, a second dome was built to house it, since it was felt that the process of replacing the original telescope with the new one would cost more than simply building a new mounting system and putting the new telescope onto it.
The observatory immediately became known as the ``Dolly Parton Observatory'' for rather obvious reasons. As a matter of fact, as a prank, a group of students painted the tops of both domes red, added red plastic buckets to the structure, and then covered the entire thing with a ``brassiere'' made out of bed sheets.
The Observatory was on the site which was destined to become the New York State Center for Industrial Innovation (NYSCII, or just CII to us illiterate types), and so it had to be moved. Of course, this would jar the rather delicate mechanisms of the telescopes. So, it was decided to move only the dome containing the more recent of the two telescopes, the one donated by GE. This dome now lives on top of the Science Center.
Most Other Campus Buildings
Most of the buildings on campus are, in fact, sinking into the mud. For instance, something went wrong with the footings for the Jonsson Engineering Center; a test footing was dug up during construction, and was found to have bulged out in all directions instead of continuing on down to bedrock as it had originally been intended to do. Because of this, there are twice as many footings as had originally been planned, which is the main reason why there are so many pillars in inconvenient places in the building. While it doesn't seem to have affected the building much, there are many who would say that a building the size of the JEC with the foundation which it seems to have would fall down in ten years. The building was built less than ten years ago; perhaps this prediction will turn out to be true. It is perhaps worthy of note that only 3/4 of the building ever got finished, and that architects called in to determine the feasibility of adding the missing 1/4 claimed that it couldn't be done.
Cogswell Labs are built on a normal, for RPI, land mass, and so will probably fall down at some time in the far future. There is gradual subsidence, and the walls are cracking; no structural damage has been done yet, but that says nothing for the future.
The Materials Research Center was built on two different land masses which are subsiding at different rates. The entire building was built with an expansion joint in the middle of it, and of course, the expansion joint has expanded. What more needs be said? The only thing which is keeping the buiding from breaking in half is that the architect designed it so that it would bend rather than breaking. Another story is that there is a law which states that a single building cannot be built from two different sources of federal funds, and the expansion joint is part of what makes the building into two legally separate buildings. Each half of the building does have a plaque stating that the building to which it is attached was provided through a different source. However, it is still true that the expansion joint has expanded.
The most stable buildings on campus are: the Quad, which is very small and light as buildings go, and is also built on bed rock; the Armory (or the Alumni Sports and Recreation Center), which was built by the Army, and so is ten or twelve times as strong as it needs to be; the Field House, which has no walls except the outside four, and so tends to not weigh down the earth very much; and the Freshman Dorms, Hall, Cary, Crockett, and Bray, which were built as ten-year temporary buildings some thirty years ago. Curiously enough, Nason and Warren Halls, which were built to the same pattern as 15 year temporary buildings sone 20 years ago, are beginning to fall apart; and Nugent, Davison, and Sharp Halls have been plagued with various troubles ever since they were built. These three dorms were, of course, built as permanent residence facilities.
Student Rights, Lefts and Others
Not the Student Bill of Rights
One of the least understood departments in the Administration is that of Campus Security. Located in the Visitor Information Center, Security holds a location central to most of the campus.
Security is basically hired security officers, employed by the Institute, with no more legal rights to enforce laws than any citizen. They are not allowed to carry weapons, and have not got the legal power that police do. However, the Institute has been actively trying to upgrade their power and authority for several years. Most of the actions have been blocked by Troy residents as well as the students at RPI, for fear of stronger control of the legal process by the school in regards to students.
Security does provide some useful services to students, such as help with recovery of stolen property and damage to personal belongings. They are constantly trying to make the campus aware of crime prevention techniques, and are actively working to make the campus safer to traverse at night, still a major problem for the women at RPI. Their response time, however, is a little weak, taking around ten minutes to respond to an on-campus call for assistance. Still, they are a little more friendly than the local police force, mostly because they are Tute employees.
Computer Morals and Ethics at RPI
It is the policy of RPI to provide the best possible computing facility to the administration (and others too). It is also RPI policy to restrict the user. In order for these policies to be successful it is essential that the users themselves observe reasonable standards of behavior in the use of these facilities, as in any other aspect of their lives.
Computing at RPI has become a part of almost every student's academic life. This has resulted in a set of ``Computer Ethics'' which are more accurately termed ``computer morals.'' Not the Handbook has thoughtfully rewritten them so that the biblical signifigance may be better felt by the computer user.
The Ten Commandments of ITS
This chapter will touch on the organizations, or offices in the lingo of the Administration, that concern student activities outside of the classroom.
Office of the Dean of Students
A Dean's Notice is one of the few pieces of mail that will put the fear of transferring to another school into a student. The Dean's office is well known as the ``Office of Procrastination'' and many people who have dealt with it suggest that you meet their challenge by waiting them out, perhaps beyond graduation.
The Office of Minority Students has been absorbed by the Dean's Office, as well as the Women's Affairs Office. All academic or social problems that concern more than one student are usually delt with by the Office of the Dean of Students.
The Learning Center was originated as a service by the Office of Minority Students, but after the OMS was absorbed by the Dean of Students Office the service became availible for any undergraduate student. In some ways the fact that this was done shortly after the Center was discovered to be working seems to indicate that the Dean of Students Office didn't expect it to succeed. None of the above, however, tells you all that much about the Learning Center. The Learning Center exists to help people improve their grades by giving them assistance and advice concerning studying, classwork, etc. This generally implies tutors, which are paid for by RPI, although advice on how to best get one's work done is useful as well.
The Counseling Center is located on the second floor of the Union, and is staffed by a very competent and caring group of people under the direction of Dr. Joe Albert. The center tries to assist students in overcoming emotional crises: depressions, suicide attempts, and other shattering mental problems. The Counseling Center is responsible for the mental health of the students at RPI, as opposed to the Infirmary, which deals more with the physical aspects of various illnesses.
Among the problems which Doc Albert is called upon to cure are one very common in the outside world, namely: Why can't I ever get a date?, and one which is peculiar to institutes like RPI, MIT, and Cal Tech, namely: How can I stop being a hacker and start talking to people again?
The center is also in many ways home for certain awkward social groups on campus, such as the Women's Concern group and the Lambda Alliance at RPI. These groups of people meet in the center regularly to discuss aspects of their lifestyles in the attempt to bring them closer to the stability that they all desire. The Women's Group deals with the issues of being a feminist in a mostly male dominated world, while the LAAR concerns itself with gay lifestyles in a heterosexual society. The center offers these groups anonymity from other students that might deal harshly (or violently) with the attitudes of the group members.
NEAR deals more with immediate crisis calls than with ongoing problems. Located within the IPAC camp, NEAR handles any troubled students by talking to them and helping them to resolve conflicts in their minds. NEAR's slogan encourages students to give them a call if they are upset about a breakup, bad grade, problem at home, anything at all. And, if you can remember the name, you also know the phone number. If you need them, they are irreplaceable.
The Information and Personal Assistance Center used to be the best source of obscure information on campus. However, more recently it has centered on personal aid for distressed people, and thus the ``trivia source'' it once was has diminished to almost a whimper. Still, they can usually tell you when and where your test will be, and how many steps there are on the Approach, but don't expect them to know what the Modern Classroom Facility is.
In case you're wondering, the Modern Classroom Facility is the official name of the Communications Center.
Father Gary is probably the most liberal Catholic known to the Church. He had almost completed his training as a Rabbi when he ``saw the light,'' as he would rather we didn't put it, and entered training for the priesthood. As a result, perhaps of this, he doesn't take his own religion as seriously as most priests do; and he can easily understand that, perhaps, your view of how the universe is held together does not exactly follow accepted dogma.
To give you some idea of Father Gary's views on the world would probably take a book the size of Not the Rensselaer Handbook. However, just to give you the very bare bones of his outlook, Father Gary is reigning Meanest Man On Campus; he ran as Pope Obnoxious the First, and claimed responsibility for the two snowstorms which destroyed GM week during his campaign.
The Gallagher Memorial Infirmary is one of the most terrifying places to spend a few days known to man. Not that the medical services are poor, or the staff excessively unfriendly, it is just that the place can give you the creeps.
The first thing that most students will see when entering the Infirmary (during ``Sick Call'') is a waiting room full of people with various ailments, all with thermometers sticking out of their mouths. This is because the long-standing Infirmary policy has been that everyone, but everyone, who goes to the infirmary should have their temperature taken; this even includes salesmen who want to see the doctor. While people are waiting to be looked at seems to be the most convenient time for all involved. Signing in is the most important thing to do upon entering the Infirmary for treatment, for until this is done, no help will be offered (except in dire emergencies, in which case the student will be sent to Samaritan Hospital by Rensselaer Rescue anyway). Then a number must be taken, and a long wait will then begin. The reason for this is simple: a minimal staff.
If the dreaded happens, and one of the doctors decides that you must stay overnight, then the nightmare begins. You must wear a smock, and spend your night in the hideous Infirmary Beds which are designed to keep you in a prone position. The night nurse will all most certainly wake you up, just after you finally fall asleep, to give you some medication; if you are extremely fortunate, it will not be a sleeping pill. You will, however, have your temperature taken every four hours, all night long. If you are not restricted to bed, then you can spend your daytime in the lounge, watching TV (commercial, ack!) or puttering around. Only the truly clever bring homework, and most everyone falls behind, after even a few days. Of course, contact with the outside world is minimal, at best. Visiting hours are slim, and for patients with mono, almost nil.
The most common ailments that put students in overnight are overdrinking and mononucleosis. Alcohol poisoning is a very popular sport at RPI, and during the first couple of weeks, it is very common among freshmen. Apparently, in past years it has quite often happened that freshmen thinking about pledging fraternities have been ``over-entertained'' by over-enthusiastic houses. The result is usually some poor freshman being pulled out of the gutter and into the hospital. Opinions are mixed as to which of the two places is more dangerous. Since the drinking age in New York has been raised to 21, this problem seems to have been somewhat alleviated. Mono seems to hit twenty or thirty people a week, mostly around test time. The average student's immunities start failing around the time of greatest pressure, and mono is easily picked up in the cramped quarters of the dorms, again, especially amongst freshmen. Mono is almost the death sentence to a student's GPA, for the average stay in the Infirmary is four weeks.
The Financial Aid Office is a perfect example of an organization which follows the rules of diminishing returns. Your aid, that is. In effect, the Financial Aid Office decides the fate of students more soundly and with less mercy than any other part of the student bureaucracies at RPI. The common ground at RPI, supposedly, is academic standing, but in reality, it is economic standing.
There are several tricks that the Aid Office uses to encourage incoming enrollment. Most of these are gifts and grants, which the entering student believes will be available throughout his stay. Little does the prospective student know that these are only for incoming freshmen ... each year's incoming freshmen. In reality, aid does decrease yearly, and as one approaches graduation, it becomes harder to get and keep, even if one's academic standing is excellent.
More students are running out of money these days than are flunking out. The most common pattern seems to be that a student enters thinking that he will be able to get enough aid to survive. He then totally exhausts the family fortunes, driving his entire family into bankruptcy by the end of his sophomore year, or the middle of his junior year. The poor kid then is dragged home, and his parents can never again afford a university eduction for him anywhere.
Impoverished students seem to have the misconception that they will be able to work their way through college. If you are one of these, our only advice to you is to forget it. There aren't enough jobs here in Troy for the resident Trojans; what makes you think they're going to hire you? You're just a knurdy, snot-nosed college kid. The best job you can expect is at about the level of dishwasher at Holmes and Watson. Since Tute demands that you finish up in ten years, and since it will take you four years of work there to accumulate enough money for one semester at RPI, you might as well give up now and not waste time that you could spend at home, collecting Welfare.
The Writing Center is probably one of the least used, yet most helpful student services on campus. Most of RPI's illustrious undergraduates are reasonably competent with literary skills, Not the Handbook aside, but still they leave much to be desired when compared to liberal arts colleges. The center, located in Sage 5308, will help students with resumes, report layouts, thesis preparation, and will point students in the direction of writing aids suitable for the assignment being pursued by the bewildered writer. They also will give consulting on using digital text processors, such as *FORMAT and *TEXTFORM on MTS. However, technical problems concerning these programs should be addressed to OCS Consulting, in the VCC.
Student Orientation exists largely to give its organizers the first crack at meeting and dating the incoming freshmen women. This may seem overly cynical, but it is difficult to find other reasons for the participation of many of its male advisors. On the other hand, it does quite effectively teach accepted students many important things, such as the fact that it will take significant effort to learn the organization of the campus (this is merely an example).
SO, which was once known as Freshman Orientation until the acronym (FO) became too much of a joke, is a good idea in theory, but rather limited in practice. SO Counsellers are not allowed to express themselves, unless they carry the same attitudes as the Administration. This results in a lot of holes in the information that can be provided by SO advisors. SO does attempt, with some success, to integrate the incoming freshmen into what should be a studious and ambitious lifestyle at RPI. They try to get people to learn to deal with the roommate(s), the ratio, and classwork, but over the space of a few days, the enormity of the task can be considerably more than the average freshman can endure. After all, they all want to just play during SO.
Everything you wanted to know about the Administration ... but were afraid to ask
It is a fact that every RPI student, in his or her academic career, will have to travel several times up and down the dangerous steps that lead to the entrance of ``The Pitts.'' Learning how to deal with this bureaucratic ordeal can be one of the most important steps one can take towards achieving the penultimate goal, that is, getting a diploma. This chapter will deal with the problems and realities of registration, attending classes and exams, recovering from receiving your report card, and how to keep on one's academic feet. Admittedly, not an easy task.
Registration is the act of telling the school, in as simple terms as is possible, exactly which courses you, the student, wish to take during a semester. ``But,'' says the registrar, ``THAT would be too much like work for my office!'' In fact, it is interesting to note that at RPI, so few majors even offer alternate, or elective courses, as they are more commonly known, that the act of registration is often simply an show of submission, indicating to the school that the student once again has given over to the Administration all vestiges of free will in matters of his life. Of course, at that point, the student finds the registration process little more than a tiring paper-pushing exercise, and no fun at all. This has become decidedly more so since the new ``fill-in-the-dots'' registration form arrived in Spring 1984.
Any documents which the Registrar would be interested in, such as registration forms and Add/Drop cards, must be signed by your advisor. So, without a doubt, one of the highlights of registration is finding out who one's advisor is. After that, the processes of actually determining if that person is still alive, and if so, then where and when he might be approached are merely trivial exercises. Many frantic students can be seen rushing about with add/drop forms dangling from their mouths, wild-eyed in anticipation of catching the intrepid advisor in an idle moment. The actual sighting of advisors can bring a student to tears, and some students, in their excitement, have even masticated the all-important add/drop form, much to their horror! Needless to say, there can be obstacles to getting forms signed even if one finds one's advisor. The advisor may, if diligent, insist on taking full records of your planned course load. And heaven forbid you interrupt a coffee break.
Class Attendance and Exams
So little is really known about how to attend classes that a large amount of research could be carried out on the topic. It could cover a detailed discussion on how to sleep in, skip out and in general, ignore classes, but this really of little use to RPI students, as they almost instinctively know how to do this without any help at all. Besides, nearly everyone has his own individual method. If you are looking for a quick excuse to skip classes, please skip ahead to the Chapter of Lists, which has a fine set of both reasons to punt classes and excuses to give to your TA.
Actually, why should a student attend class? Well, for a start, a large part of a student's tuition goes toward paying the professor to show up and mutter into a microphone about the motion of an object through N dimensions, usually in words directly out of the text. Besides, if you absolutely cannot read anything in print, then a lecture might actually get the gist of the class subject across ... assuming that the instructor in fact speaks intelligible American English.
This philosophy is even more evident when applied to the subject of attending exams, for very obvious reasons. It should be noted that at RPI, one does not have to take ``tests;'' rather, one is subjected to ``quizzes,'' which almost always require more time to finish (and on rare occasions ... to simply read) than is allowed. On top of this hardship is the timing of these measurements of academic ability. It is not uncommon for upperclassmen to be taking two or three tests in one day. The helpless freshmen must rise before the sun on F-Test days to get to their ``quizzes.'' It seems like a lot of work for some pitifully small numbers, but these values sum up to the value the ``real world'' (i.e. parents, potential employers, even peers) uses to rate your existence.
Since exams are a hefty percentage of everyone's QPA at RPI, a description of what to take to an exam is a very useful piece of information that many students are very unfamiliar with. A few sensible items include pens, pencils, erasers, paper and a calculator. Clearly, these elements of test taking are the most critical, so don't buy cheap. Carry backups, just like the astronauts do, because taking an exam is a lot like being in space; you must survive this dark vacuum by your wits alone, with assistance only from whatever tools you have brought in with you. Mechanical pencils are the best bet at RPI, because every pencil sharpener at the Tute is somebody's private property and will be on the wrong side of a locked door when you most need it.
As for calculators, well, everyone wishes he had an HP-41CX, but life is full of hardships. You might just have to settle for a TI-30, but in most cases, that will do. It certainly won't matter what kind of calculator you have if it runs out of power in the middle of the test. Calculator Death is one of the most common reasons Tute students fail tests ... when their ``plastic pals who are fun to be with'' fail them, their minds become catatonic. So, carry extra batteries or a wall plug or even a portable generator. This is your grade, hockey puck!
The aforementioned tools are, of course, essential to succeeding on tests. However, there are other items that one could bring that might provide that extra edge to help overcome test anxiety, or at least amuse yourself while waiting for the test time to end. First on Not the Handbook's list is food. A wide category, we admit, but there are right foods to take to tests, and there are wrong foods. Beware anything that becomes inedible after sitting on the table for more than an hour. Junk food is the most popular stuff found at tests, for it cannot spoil, and it usually has certain stimulating effects on the mind, as well as stimulating cancer in the stomach. Twinkies, Ding Dongs, hetohs and Doritos lead the pack. Sodas, such as Coke, Pepsi (the commonest outpouring of the campus soda machines), Mountain Dew (the campus king of caffeine) and Hires can cut through the driest test throat. If you are in need of serious stimulation, or are so totally beyond help that being at the test is not going to make a significant impact on your grade, then drinks like beer, vodka or even Jack Daniels might be in order. Beware, some test proctors are not going to like seeing you drunk, unless you are willing to share.
There is a second category of items to take to tests that is almost an art. This is the category of items whose sole purpose is to either soothe the test-taker's fears, or to totally bewilder the teaching assistants. Our personal favorite item is the stuffed animal, be it a teddy bear, a tribble or even a leather penguin. These little critters will provide something to hold onto, even during the worst tests. They provide a great buffer from test shock.
A third appeal to insanity is to bring a photo of a great scientist or mathematician to the test, setting the photo on your table or placing it in your shirt pocket with the image facing out, and telling the TA that you now have an authoritative intellectual ``looking over your test.'' You can't go wrong, some people swear by this.
Another popular idea is dressing in a way which demonstrates your lack of fear, or of common sense when taking a test. Bathrobes, dark sunglasses, suits of armor and the like are very effective. Remember, the main idea here is to confuse your peers and the TA's in the hopes of altering the probabilities on the curve.
As sort of a final word on test taking, Not the Staff feels that the best item to take to a test is still Some Idea of How to Answer the Questions. This seems to work the best, but we still don't know why.
When taking tests, people leaving early are always a bad sign. If you are sitting in a three-hour exam, for instance, and somebody gets up after half an hour, hands his test in, and leaves, this generally means one of two things. Either he has realised that the test is trivial, which means that you don't know what you're doing; or else, that the test is impossible, and he has quit while he is ahead. In either case, he is obviously smarter than you are.
The C Vortex
A word or two is in order concerning the nature of these things known as grades. Few numbers at RPI will be more arbitrary than these. It will seem that the values placed on test scores, computer projects and even class attendance are totally ridiculous. They will only become clear if you understand something very basic about grading at Rensselaer.
The Curve, or as we like to think of it, the ``C'' Vortex, is the root fault. In large classes, for example, the instructors will be attempting, whenever they make a test up, to insure that the grades achieved will fit nicely into a curve like this: 5% with F's, 10% with D's, 70% with C's, 10% with B's and 5% with A's. If this doesn't work out, then our friend the arbitrary constant will be added to the grades to bring them in line with these goals. In Math classes, there may also be multiplication by a different arbitrary constant, just to prove that the Math department can do arithmetic better than anybody else.
Many of you might be thinking to yourselves, ``Hey, this is bogus!'' Think again. Look over your old physics course work; compare it with what the rest of your class did. Examine your efforts in relation to others while you take Engineering Courses. Think on this: Are you really doing anything all that much better than anybody else? Eventually you will see a pattern that spells ``2.0'' for your QPA. Keep this in mind when explaining your performance to the P & M. It is the curse of the curve.
What happens if you do fall out of the C Vortex?
Most RPI student quickly discover a basic fact of life, getting good grades is not as easy at RPI as it was in high school. In fact, you may already have become aware of Academic Probation, either through being on it yourself, or through having a friend on it. You already know how to get on probation, or if you don't, you at least know where to look it up.
If you do get put on probation, it isn't the end. Many people have led full and useful academic lives after being put on probation. Probation has no permanent effect on you, and should not substantially change your daily lifestyle. What it primarily means is that you should think about going and getting some help with your studies. The Learning Center is a good choice. If you are pledging a fraternity, perhaps you should talk to some of your brothers. Most of them will have taken the same courses which are giving you such problems. Some may even have passed them. If you are in a club, slack off a bit more.
If you are a freshman, probation is a warning that perhaps RPI is not the school for you. If you persist in your folly and remain on probation for your second semester, you are almost guaranteed a puntogram. The options listed above are still open to you, if you feel that you really can make a place for yourself at the Tute. Don't be shy about asking people for help, they remember how it was.
If, however, you are a senior, or if you have other things going for you (like, for instance, a parent on the Board of Trustees, or rich parents who can afford to put you through RPI without the benefit of financial aid), you may get a reprieve. This is a letter which says that you can come back to RPI next semester, with the understanding that you will be on probation, and if you are unable to get off probation at the end of that semester, you really will get the great big boot.
This time, they really are serious.
Most of the letters you get about being put on or taken off probation will be from the Department of Academic Begging and Pleading, also known as Academic Advising. This is a department which is almost entirely concerned with finding out the real reason why you are doing so poorly, and unlike most bureaucracies, is actually open to reason. The primary reason for its open-mindedness is that it is virtually owned by one man. It could even be said that the Committee on Academic Standing lives in his pocket. If you genuinely think you can do better, or that you have been shafted by the administration, you really should go talk to this man, because not only can he help, he is even willing to try for you.
One of the phrases that is common with RPI students is flunking in. What this means is that your grades are too low to transfer to another school of similar caliber to RPI. Admittedly, you will always be able to use your grades to get into the smaller community colleges, but this may not meet with approval from P & M. This happens to lots of people, perhaps as many as seventy percent of Tute students. It is just one of the realities of attending Rensselaer. Your grades are posted on a sliding scale which rewards only a select few at the top.
There is very little that you can do about flunking in. This is a trap which you have been caught in thanks to way RPI chooses to grade you. In attempting to avoid grade inflation, many professors will deliberately curtail the number of grades above `C' level which are given out. However, other schools to which you would like to transfer do not take into account the fact that a `C' from RPI is at least as difficult as an `A' from many other universities.
There is little that students can do to overcome the C Vortex, save for the J-Board case in the Spring of 1985, where a student had a ruling which called for a grade change. Needless to say, there was and still is a considerable uproar over this poitical avenue for grade enhancement. Realistically, RPI is not going to get any easier.
Not the Grading System
Not Living Here
RPI provides all kinds of ``housing'' for all kinds of students. Apparently, in the interests of the lowest common denominator, this housing takes the form of civilian dwellings not unlike those of Berlin or Paris during World War II. RPI does not discriminate housing to any student, save for sex, class, and your lottery number, and does its best to maintain a standard in ill repair, disinterest and in general, a lack of capital investment. Be especially wary if your dorm room is on ``future development'' land.
Residence Life at RPI
It is in the best interests of the school that as much responsibility as possible be removed from the students, and to this end a set of rules has been created for the dorm residents. You did not know these rules when you arrived here, despite the fact that you were required to sign a paper stating that you would abide by them before you knew what they were. You had to sign a contract, one of the terms of which was that you would follow the rules laid out in the Rensselaer Handbook concerning rooms. This is morally equivalent to being required to sign a two-hundred page contract without ever seeing more than page one.
In the interests of enlightening you who have not had the chance to read The Rensselaer Handbook, we present a list of the responsibilities of the Dorm Resident as it is most often interpreted.
Responsibilities of Dorm Residents:
Distribution of Housing
Housing is distributed at RPI in a manner not unlike the system used in most state prisons. If you are a Freshman, then the choice is simple. Mainly, you don't have one. The women reside in either BARH or one of the all-women dorm floors. For the men the housing solution is much more simple. Build shabby and relatively cheap buildings and pack the whole male population into them, without regard for personal tastes, space or even cleanliness. Soon the guys will be slinging their own trash down the halls, but who cares? It can be hosed down before the spring tours are on campus.
Once the freshman year is over, every student has the right to choose the place of residence that he or she would like. Most of these students then immediately panic and run to the school for housing, out of fear of taking responsibility for their own lives. They have been conditioned to depend on the Administration. In reality, there are four types of housing available to (almost) any upperclassman: On-campus, Institute Apartments, Fraternity or Off-campus. These are very different types of living and one should consider the benefits and detriments of each very carefully before embarking on living in Troy.
On-campus housing is not the best standard of living for RPI upperclassmen. RPI is one of the most expensive landlords in Troy, and the school demands payment up front. A breakage fee is charged to each student in order to provide the school with insurance money so that it can cover the costs of damage done by random vandals, at everyone's expense. On-campus housing requires one to use the IBX Phone system, which is RPI's own version of AT&T, and which is slightly more expensive, too; the only alternative is no phone service at all. Dorm kitchen facilities are reasonable, but none of the expendables involved in running a kitchen are provided (e.g. paper towels, cleanser, sponges ... ). Most of the bathrooms are public in some fashion or another, as are the lounges, kitchens and basements. Security regularly warns residents of crime hazards which are still too numerous to be effectively controlled, especially during student vacations. Break-ins are fairly common. The front doors to most dorms are left unlocked, so almost anyone who wants to enter a dorm can. Campus Security can enter any room on campus and search if they have ``reasonable cause'', which is far more than Troy Police can do to Troy residents. Finally, the amount of personal space, that is, the room one individual has to himself, is very limited with on campus housing. The gist of this is that RPI is probably the most expensive and impersonal landlord in Troy, for when a student lives on campus, RPI not only controls his academic life, but his home life as well.
The method of aquiring on-campus housing is the housing lottery. The concept behind the lottery is simple. The student who enters the lottery is betting $100 that the Office of Housing is going to give them a good room to live in. This may not seem so strange to some, but it becomes clear just how far the odds are against the student when one realizes that most of the ``good rooms'' are being squatted in, and thus are not going to be on the lottery board anyway! The lottery becomes even more of a political battle when various minority factions claim exemptions to the rules, for reasons ranging from realistic (e.g. handicapped students) to simply selfish.
The Institute very generously provides apartments for its students in a similar manner to most other landlords in Troy. As mentioned earlier, it does expect full rent in advance, which is not a very nice thing for any landlord to do, and in addition, it does not provide nearly the quality of housing that even the merest slug would expect.
There are three main housing complexes open to Tute students: the Colonie apartments, the RAHP apartments, and the various mumble-wyck apartments. We shall deal with each of them in turn.
The Colonie apartments are a great place to live if you love your neighbors, because you are going to be hearing lots and lots from them. The walls are made of cardboard; so are the roofs, and the rainwater has a fine time playing in your kitchenette. A room holds two people, and is not very much larger than the tiny little thing you lived in all Freshman year; to justify the higher price, they install a ``room divider'' which is made of highest quality burlap, give you a joke of a little kitchen to play around with, and part shares in a bathroom. The place was built on the cheap many years ago, and later sold to RPI when it couldn't make a profit on its own, as a residential hotel. There are some fifty rooms in each building, and you will probably be able to hear what is going on in most of them. There are actually four buildings, and there isn't enough parking space for any of them.
The other main problem with Colonie is the insect infestation. The actual residents of the buildings are the cockroaches, of which there are very many; the human beings are there on sufferance. The Tute is aware of the problem, and continually sends pest control crews around, usually about once a week during the early fall and spring months. This has had only one noticeable effect, however; the breed of cockroaches currently in residence in Colonie is immune to all known insecticides.
The RAHP apartments all cluster around Colvin Circle, a road which is apparently owned by the Tute. They are not really a part of the RPI campus; the U. S. Snail delivers to them directly, and until recently, they did not even get to use the RPI phone system. Now there is the IBX, and everyone has to use that, and so it costs more than AT&T ever did, but, that's progress. However, back to our story.
A RAHP apartment is very much a group experience. There will be a group of four of you there, all year, unless you want to pay lots and lots of money for a storage room. Or two. As a matter of fact, it is almost worth it, because there is very little storage space in a RAHP apartment. In any event, unless you sign up for it as a group, there will be three other people who you have never seen before, in this one apartment, sharing the same kitchen, living space, and bathroom.
Again, the walls are not made of very thick stuff. There are four units in a building, making sixteen people, who will hear almost your every word. However, the insect infestations are pretty much under control.
There are many wycks to choose from, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. Stackwyck shares many of the same faults with the RAHP apartments; there are four of you, who may even have known each other once, if you're lucky, sharing the one apartment. The apartment is smaller, of course, so you pay more per square foot; and there are many more units in a building, so the amount of noise goes up. According to the people who have lived both here and in RAHP, however, Stackwyck is somewhat of a better place to live, because of the availability of storage space, and also because a better class of people seem to live there.
Rensselaerwyck (how do they think up these names?), which is located up behind the field house, is made of even cheaper stuff than any other building on the campus. It, too, is infested with cockroaches. It is intended primarily as housing for married couples with children; we seriously don't know how children could be expected to live in such a place.
Most of the people who live here seem to be Asiatic. It seems that many Asiatic families are formed right here in Troy, and these people seem to think that the advantages of living near the Tute outweigh the disadvantages of living in Tute housing.
Bryckwyck, between Rensselaerwyck and Sunset Terrace, is actually the best of a BAD lot. It is intended for married couples with no children, and seems to fit that task rather well. There are some eight units per building, and the walls are fairly thick: there are actually stairwells between the apartments, in most cases. Room is a little bit on the skimpy side, but there are supposed to be only two people living there, anyway; the amount of privacy is rather high, which is nice.
Living in a fraternity is obviously a very social experience. Choosing to live in one of these places requires the consent of a large group of people. All of these people are officially your ``brothers'' (or ``sisters''), whether or not you can stand their personal habits; even if you can't, you must still put up with your house mates. What is more, you have to make sure that they can put up with you. In addition, a large amount of your free time will be spent in maintaining the residence. The building you live in will be owned by a proverbial ``fraternity corporation,'' rather than by any individual person, and so will need more work to keep it liveable, and will still appear generally shabbiery, than a comparable private home. The reason for this is simple: you take care of your own stuff better than you take care of anybody else's, and stuff that belongs to everybody is taken care of by nobody.
The fraternity experience is not for everyone, but a surprisingly large number of students (around 40%) choose that route. It is not a choice that is easily changed, either.
Off-campus, or ``Taking your chances''
Off-campus housing is definitely the best choice for the RPI student. With off-campus housing, the choice of where to live is made by the student, not by housing or the ``brothers in the house.'' With off-campus housing, the responsibility of where and how to live rests only with the student, whether it be monthly, or by a lease. The reality of off-campus housing is that most people are going to move into living arrangements of their own devising after they graduate, and the experience of doing it on your own can be very helpful in keeping the ``post-college blues'' from affecting you too much.
The Organic Waste Products Services
The RPI Food Services are the butt of almost half the jokes you might hear while walking around campus at any time. Of course, almost any college food service is going to be some kind of cross between Burger Master and Wyatt's Cafeteria, and DAKA is no different.
Not Parking at RPI
Parking is a four letter word on this campus, just ask any automobile owner you see trudging around campus in search of his car. In its rampant growth over the last ten years, Rensselaer has built over many of its parking lots, and increased its parking population as well by hiring more faculty and staff, and admitting more students. Security seems to be overly concerned with the problems of automobile parking at RPI as well, they administer around 2500 tickets each semester (that's about 27 a day). What's really the sad part about parking at RPI is this: it's only going to get worse.
The Rensselaer Department of Transportation (RDOT) is responsible for the rules of parking (and other aspects of motor vehicle use on campus). In an attempt to provide more parking for faculty, RDOT has adopted a ``points'' system for faculty and staff parking permits, which give points for salary levels and seniority, the net result being that the guy with the most points parks closest to his office. This has one major effect on student parking: there is none directly on campus.
Strictly speaking, there are only two student parking lots to be found. The largest is North Lot, which is also shared by the faculty and staff who didn't get slots in the ``inner core'' lots. The other lot(s) are located around the student dorms, with the highest concentration of spaces found around the freshman dorms. The Armory lot was open to students, but with the closing of the Communications Center Upper Lot, for the construction of the CII, RDOT decided to cut this off from students. Of course, any student can park in any open spot along Sage Avenue or 15th Street, but these spots are in general hard to find during the day, and are often snowed under when the snow plow passes them.
To add to the aggravation, RDOT requires students to register their cars with Security, and pay a $10 fee (tax) to park on the legal student lots. The only reason they require this is to be able to trace a particular car to a particular student, in order that the inevitable parking ticket can be charged to the student's account with the Bursar. The fee for a parking infraction, (e.g. parking without a sticker, parking in a faculty spot) is $10, if you pay in cash at Security. If you let the ticket sit, at the end of the semester RDOT takes $15 out of your breakage fee (tax) for each ticket. Tickets can be appealed by students through a board that is chaired by students, however, fewer than ten percent of all tickets are revoked.
The Art of Doing Laundry
There are basically three ways to do your laundry at RPI. If you live off-campus, you can use one of the commercial laundromats. If you live in a dorm, then you also have the option of using the dorm facilities. And, if where you live has its own machines, then you can do it at home. A much less often used option is to take your laundry home (to your real home, that is) when you visit there every month or so. Few people at RPI live close enough to the Tute to make this a viable alternative. It is very much easier than doing your laundry yourself, though.
Of the three, doing your wash at home is the best idea, for you don't have to cart your clothes across campus or town, exposing them to the elements and prying eyes, and endangering them to strange machines and theft. Also, the cost of doing the wash is undoubtably less when done at home. However, very few apartments off-campus have these facilities, so most students are left with one of the first two options. Many fraternities will either have laundry rooms or some form of laundry service; this may tend to make fraternities a bit more popular than off-campus housing.
Going to a commercial laudromat is your next best bet, whether you live on campus or not. if you have a car, then several places are available to you, the best being A-1 Wash, on 15th Street, beside the Copper Mug and Arrow Cash Market. They charge 85 cents for a wash and 25 cents for each 12 minutes in a large dryer. A typical load will cost $1.35 to wash. They also have a drop off service, for a little more, where one of their employees will wash your clothes for you, and have them ready by the evening. The advantages of these places are only obvious when compared with on-campus facilities.
As for on-campus washing, Not the Handbook can only offer you some advice and our best wishes. The biggest problem with on-campus laundry facilities is that they are poorly maintained. When machines break, it usually takes weeks for the Office of Housing to fix them. This is partially due to the paperwork, and partially because few students report problems quickly, because no way to report problems has been made available to them. Although both the campus and the professional machines take 20 minutes for a load, the professional machines generally can do more laundry with less detergent. If these aren't enough aggravation, the driers don't. Most of the time they are filled with lint, and the heating elements are near failure. However, by far the most aggravating thing about on-campus washing is that when a machine eats one of the silly plastic tickets they use for money, you have to go to the Housing Office to get a refund, amid lots of paperwork. If you are out of tickets, ``you go hungry'' as the saying goes.
Survival at the Tute
Birth and Death Control
At RPI, the problems of life and death are very central to every student's mental condition. He or she has to deal with the constant fear of either creating life that is undesired, by human conception (the act of sex) or by incubating a Daka meal next to the heater coils in his room, or on the other hand, of having to end life, whether it be his own, or again, that of his meal. Of course the Institute, in its never-ending effort to take all the student's personal problems into its own hands, has much to do with these terribly vital issues.
Birth Control at Rensselaer
Birth control at RPI is very much in effect, but is not appreciated in its simplest form by the students who practice it, for some very obvious reasons. Basically, they don't like it. In its simplest form, RPI birth control is implemented by what most students call the ``Rensselaer Ratio.'' Its logic runs along these lines:
Of course this has several different variations in real life. Some people simply abstain from sexual activity. Others become gay to stay sane. Most of the others go on to greener pastures and take what risks that there may be of contracting anthrax.
Rensselaer has a fairly serious problem when it comes to sexual equality. With a ratio of men to women of 5:1, it seems clear that the women are seriously, almost dangerously, outnumbered. This is in fact the case. RPI men seem, on the outset, to be rather shy and unsure of themselves when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex, but the young women who come here have (again, for the most part) considerably less experience with the opposite sex. The men who arrive at RPI have generally had bad experiences with dating; they may have been rejected due to their excessively high grades in high school, or they may have given up all hope of ever meeting a girl with whom they could have an intelligent conversation. In any event, they have not yet entered the race for dates when they get here. As a result, they are invariably sexually immature. This condition generally heals with time, as they are finally exposed to girls who can accept their awkwardness, and who have some of their own. However, at the outset, there is a certain amount of trouble.
Possessiveness is a mania at Rensselaer. The men dearly hang on to relationships for fear of being left out in the cold, while the women fight constantly for breathing space. Your typical RPI guy suspects everyone is trying to pry ``his girlfriend'' away from him, and often because of this, he drives the poor girl insane with his jealousy. Often this jealousy is founded merely on the fact that the fellow is totally outnumbered by his girlfriend's other ``platonic'' male friends. This is just the way life is at RPI, and the sooner the men adjust to it, the smoother their relations go.
RPI women, with very few exceptions, find themselves inundated with young men, all of whom want great amounts of attention and intimacy from the few women that there are. This feast among the women often leads to some very unfortunate results.
Most RPI women have just graduated from a high school where the ratio more closely approached 1:1, and where they were considered to be ``greasy grinds'' because of their high grades. Because of these two factors, they were rarely asked out on dates and few have had boyfriends during high school. Upon arriving at RPI, they suddenly change from being passed over on Friday nights to being asked out quite a lot. The sudden arrival of a veritable flock of admirers, while it is no doubt what the woman has been dreaming of all during high school, becomes a very severe drain on her energy and often lead to a mental state very similar to burnout. This is no fun for anybody, least of all the young woman, who feels that if she sees another earnest, caring, male face, she will scream, or start killing people, or some such insanity.
The syndrome is known as ``puppy-dog-ism,'' because of all the male puppy dogs wagging their tails, sniffing up the poor girl's skirts, and wanting miscellaneous attentions. Puppy-dogs are notorious for doing homework, hanging around the dorm at all hours, and for staring at the object of their puppy-dog-ism for hours.
Another more difficult problem is unwanted pregnancies. These are also a spinoff of social immaturity, resulting from not being aware of birth control or just taking risks. Pregnancies among freshmen women are rather high at RPI, peaking around 10 percent of the freshman women within the first two months of their freshman year.
The Unabridged Purity Test
Answer each question with a ``yes'' or a ``no.'' You score one point for each ``no.'' The higher the score, the greater the personal purity rating.
For this section, SOMEONE is to be interpreted as someone of the opposite sex. Have you ever:
Section 2: have you been on either end of:
Section 3: Continue normally:
Section 4: drugs, etc:
Section 5: serious sex:
Section 6: homosexual:
Everything in this section is to be interpreted for homosexuality. In this section, SOMEONE is to be interpreted as someone of the same sex.
Continuing section 6 homosexual:
For the remainder of the homosexual section, SEX means any of the following:
Oral sex (either way) mutual masturbation anal intercourse crotch-to-crotch grinding tongue-bathing
End of homosexual section.
Section 7: seriously kinky things:
Death Control at Rensselaer
RPI is indeed a difficult school, demanding, for the most part, considerable amounts of effort on the part of its students. Quite often, the pressure can drive people right to the edge of despair. This is not helped by the fact that there are many other sorts of pressure, most of which will come to bear at the exact same time. (This is a practical application of Murphy's Law.) Grades, financial aid cuts, and relations with parental units and girlfriends or boyfriends can all come to a head at once. When this happens, and when the light of the sun is blotted out by all these concerns, then suicide can become very tempting as a way to stop all the problems at once.
RPI is rather mute on the subject of suicide, preferring for the most part to ignore it, and when it occurs, to cover it up and hide the evidence. The reality is that students at RPI, as well as at other major schools, do on occasion kill themselves. More than likely, the causes of suicide are not avoidable, in so much as RPI is not going to be getting any easier on its students and neither are the expectations of parents going to become any less demanding. However, suicide is not a sensible, reasonable or even simple solution to life's dilemmas.
The most important thing to remember is that killing yourself is final. There is no turning back on this decision. What's more, there is life after failing out of RPI. Too few students who are doing terribly want to realize this, for the act of failing seems to be a statement by the school that you are not worthy of being in the same school as your friends. Well, to be accepted at RPI is quite a step, but on occasion the school and the student are not compatible. It is not worth dying for a mistake like choosing the wrong school.
The best thing to do if one is feeling suicidal is not to go on a drinking spree, or to visit the local drug store for valium, but to get in touch with someone who can help you work out the depression. The organizations such as NEAR and the Counseling Center are a good place to begin. Talk to friends, too, and tell them how you feel. If they can cushion you from your pain, then being with them will help. It is most important that your parents give you support instead of anguish, so if they are going to be angry, don't talk to them directly about what troubles you. Few students have such support from their family, so the feelings of being cut off are common.
Entertainment in the Capital District
One of the saddest things about Rensselaer students is that many of them fail to discover the interesting things to do in the Capital District. Inside of the three cities (Albany, Schenectady, and Troy) are a multitude of clubs, restaurants, novelty stores, night spots, theaters, and parks to be enjoyed by the college age crowd. Most of these establishments encourage student business by offering discounts, promoting their college crowd, and in general, offering the kinds of activities and services that students look for. Don't sell the Capital District short, especially if you are from a large city, for most of the things that you may have favored in the bigger city can be found here, admittedly in smaller numbers.
The biggest drawback to being in Troy, it seems, is having to own a car to get away from RPI. For students without cars, there are basically three choices to transportation: find a friend with a car, ride a taxi, or ride the bus. The taxi services located in Troy are overpriced, callous and dangerous. Black and White cab is the undisputed leader in Troy, and they drive like they own the road. In general, it is best not to take a taxi anywhere, especially while alone. The fare can be astonishing (e.g. from Troy to Albany; $15).
The Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) runs a good bus service to the major shopping areas in the tri-city area. Bus 22 runs to Albany from in front of the Atrium every half-hour. Bus 70 runs from downtown Albany to Colonie Center equally frequently, and the fare is around 70 cents. Bus 14 goes to Rensselaer, which is a good way to get to the Third Street Theater.
There are several movie theater chains in the area, including the national ones such as United Artists, General Cinema, and RKO Fox, as well as some local repertory theaters that show more obscure works.
The most important thing to know about the local theaters is whether or not they have student discounts. United Artists and Hellman theaters have student discounts. The Crossgates Mall Cinema also offers a student discount ($3.50) for its evening shows. The Colonie (Northway) Cine 1..8 theater offers no student discount, and isn't a very appealing theater for doing so.
Three theaters in the area are not your typical show house. Specializing in ``sleeper,'' ``artistic,'' or just off beat films, the Spectrum Theater, 3rd Street Theater, and Images Cinema are a real delight for the avant-garde film fan. Of the three, Third Street is the smallest theater, which can be a problem when arriving late for a show. Arrive early to get seats together, if at all. The Spectrum is run by the Third Street management, but concentrates on more ``major'' films than its counterpart, and shows these films for longer runs. Images, which is in Williamstown, Mass, shows an occasional big seller film along with more avant-garde fare. All of the theaters offer natural foods instead of the usual junk food one finds in movie concession stands. Of course, the concessions aren't any cheaper.
Most of the theaters in the Capital District are concentrated in or near Albany. In the downtown area are the Spectrum (just up Delaware Street; take the Madison Ave. exit on 787 south and turn left at Lark Street, onto Delaware.) and the Madison (keep going up Madison Ave. past Lark Street for several blocks). Across the river in Rensselaer is the 3rd Street Theater (take I-90 east toward Boston, exit on Washington Street, follow signs to Amtrak station, turn left at the gas station a block before the bottom of the hill).
In Colonie there is the Crossgates Mall (south on I-87 from the I-90 intersection, has it's own exit) the Northway Cine (Route 5 exit on I-87 going toward Albany, or Fuller Road exit on I-90 away from SUNYA), and the UA Colonie (behind the Colonie Centre Mall off of Wolf Road). Also in Colonie, because of the amoeba-like geography of Colonie, is the UA Towne (Route 9, north of where it intersects Route 7 in Latham). Someday this will be at the intersection of Extension Route 7 and Route 9.
Schenectady has two notable theaters, the Mowhawk Mall Cinema (take Route 7 all the way out to Schenectady) and Proctor's Theater, which also features live theater (downtown Schenectady, find it yourself!).
Troy has only two real theaters, the Uncle Sam Atrocity, and the Cinema (Skinema) Arts Theater. Both are rather slimy and no further mention will be made of them here.
The Capital District is well represented by various food merchants, and boasts a fine collection of resturants that most students can afford. The following listings are categorized by atmosphere, and within those categories by price.
Justin McNeil's --- 304 Lark Street, across from Club 288. Noisy, busy bar front with a classy jazz dining room in the back. Good selection of sandwiches that are filling and all under five dollars. Catch the jazz music after 10 PM on weekend nights.
Italia Resturant --- 4th Street, Troy. Within walking distance of West Hall, this is another jazz bar that happens to sport a resturant with slow service but fine food at a student's price. Nick Brigniola and his Quartet often play this joint.
Margarita's --- 284 Lark Street, Albany. Mexican food at very affordable prices. Go upstairs for quiet meal, or outside, weather permitting (After September and before May, forget it!).
Pasta Express --- 290 Lark Street, Albany. Incredibly good pasta in huge quantities with garlic bread and other Italian side dishes, for under five dollars a plate. They are fast, too, so if you are in a hurry, try them out. The staff is fun and friendly, and can help out if the diverse range of pasta is at first overwhelming.
8th Step Coffeehouse --- Willet Street, Albany. One of the more popular and well represented coffee houses in Albany. Just one street over from Lark St.
Ben and Jerry's --- Vermont's Finest Ice Cream retailer. There are two outlets in Albany, one on New Scotland Ave. just past the Albany Medical Center (hey, they can take my tonsils out anytime!) and the other in the Crossgates Mall. Makes a good excuse for a mall roadtrip. Beware the Vermonster, it makes the RPI Colossus look like a dish for a wimp.
Cocos --- Tops the NtRH list. This place is fun, fun, fun, but oh so Expensive, Expensive, EXPENSIVE. Plan on blowing $20 a head, easy. Mega drinks in fish bowl cups and a salad bar that's a meal in itself are the main features of a great place to take a friend to for a birthday celebration.
TGI Fridays --- A popular place for the Yuppie crowd in Albany, this restaurant claims to have started the Singles Decade (that's 1970-present, for those not in the know). Wide selection on the menu, silly and trite knick-knacks on the wall, funny hats on the waitresses, and not a terribly inexpensive place.
Boulevard Bookstore --- 12 Northern Street, Albany. This store specializes in social and science texts, and sports one of the finest Women's Concerns sections in the area. Also carries music and artworks.
FantaCo --- 21 Central Avenue, Albany. One of the strongest comic and science fiction bookstores in the Capital District. They also sponsor a local comic book convention under the name of LastCon.
Nelsons --- Central Ave., Albany. A classic usedbook store, the owner is personable and knows where almost all his books are.
Colsons --- State at Pearl, Albany. Largest collection of magazines and newspapers in area. Sleazy crowd after hours.
Earthworld Comics --- 327 Central Avenue, Albany. Lower grade collection of comics than FantaCo, but has lots of older copies.
Electric City Comics --- Schenectady. Wide and diverse selection of new and old comics, ``SciFi'' books, and back issues of Playboy magazines. Find one for the year you were born, it's a riot!
Crossgates Mall --- The undisputed king of area malls, and source of predictions that other area malls would go under by stealing their business. Crossgates sports twelve theaters, a huge selection of fast food vendors, including Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, and several anchor stores such as J. C. Penney, Jordan Marsh, Filene's, and even Caldor. Altogther the Total Mall Experience (TME).
Colonie Mall --- The previous champion of the area malls, Colonie was the only bi-level mall until Crossgates. There is less at Colonie in the way of shoe shops, but it does have a newly refurbished Sears, Roebuck Co. store and also a Macy's, the classiest store in any area mall. The UA Towne Central, RKO Fox, and the Cine 1..8 theaters are located within a few hundred meters of this mall.
Latham Circle Mall --- This ``mall'' started life as an outdoor shopping center, which was later enclosed to accomodate the new mall concept. While claiming nothing special, the Circle does have a Boston Store and two video arcades, side by side, which in the past have had price wars. The most redeming feature of the Circle is that it is the closest mall in the area to Troy, excepting the Uncle Sam Atrium.
Mohawk Mall --- Schenectady's own mall, this thing is long and twisty. Way the hell out on Route 7, unless you happen to live in Schenectady.
Uncle Sam Atrium --- Troy's own attempt at suburban commercialdom, and a total failure because of its location. Actually has the best video tape rental place in the Capital District, but very few venture this way to use it. Has excellent parking garage, but the parking fees are annoying.
Troy Plaza --- While not exactly a mall, it is Troy's idea of the next best thing. Ames, Price Gouger and One Hour Photo are just some of the commercial delights to be found here.
Stuyvesant Plaza --- While not technically a mall, this shopping center contains some of the very best stores in Albany. One of the best bookstores, record shoppes, computer stores, art galleries, and bagelry's resides here.
A note about most of the malls mentioned above. Almost all have a Radio Shack, a Waldenbooks, and enough shoe stores to terrify even the strongest of stomachs.
Troy has two main parks, Prospect Park and the Hudson River Front Park. Prospect Park is the large fenced off park just south of Congress street, starting at 13th street and running down to 8th. It contains a public pool, some small outdoor cooking facilities, and an incredible view of downtown Troy at night. A great place to go ``park,'' but the density of Troy residents, mostly high schoolers, is alarming.
Areas of Special Interest
There are a few areas of special interest in the Capital District, if only for their peculiar nature or interest to the enlightened college student.
Foremost among these places is the central area of Downtown Albany. This area encompasses the Empire State Plaza, Robinson Square, Lark Street, and State Street. The Empire Plaza is the five large skyscrapers (the big one with the four children) that can be clearly seen from I-787, Rensselaer, and even RPI (on a clear day). The Plaza, also known as ``Rockefeller's Last Erection,'' has a huge park built on the top of it. There is another Rickey sculpture there, ``Two Lines Oblique,'' which is also known as the ``Needletoid.'' The New York State Museum, Capitol Building, and other government offices are located nearby. Behind the Plaza is Robinson Square, a collection of small artistic shops that sell novelty items centered around major themes. Up the street is Lark Street, another collection of boutiques and art shops, which is home to a large new-wave/punk culture in Albany. 288 Lark Street is the most popular new-wave/punk nightclub in the area, and features local and national bands regularly.
Those of you who have actually attended classes at RPI, whoever you might be, have actually seen the inside of several of the more famous buildings mentioned earlier. For the benefit of those of you who never made it to class, or who are eagerly awaiting your first class at RPI, here is a description of most of the classroom facilities available to you as students. We will start at the bottom of the campus, and work our way up to the start of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, as you will probably do after your first class in West Hall.
West Hall consists of two pieces, the old building and the new wing. Both of these have been heavily modified over the years. There are two entrances to the building. The one which looks like a loading dock off the parking lot actually is a loading dock; it enters the new wing on the (you guessed it) third floor. The entrance closer to the Pittsburgh building ends up at a point midway between the second and third floors of the old building.
Most of the classes which you will take in West Hall will be humanities. Languages, literature, and communications all have their homes in this building, and most classes in these courses occur in the small rooms on the fourth floor. Note that the new wing does not have a fourth floor; all these rooms are in the old building. Some literature classes are held in the classrooms on the second floor, but not many of them.
All of these classrooms have one thing in common: the desks. You will be required to sit in silly little desks with very hard seats and miniscule note-taking surfaces, usually for an hour and a half at a stretch. The desks will have grafitti all over them just before each long vacation, which will vanish again by the time classes re-convene. This is because the writing surfaces of these desks are made of the least markable compounds known to man: RPI hyperplastic. This strange yellow substance can be found nowhere else in the known universe.
If you are a geologist, you will discover the rock rooms, on the first floor, down under the auditorium. The Geology Department lives down here, and has offices, a museum, and work-study jobs down in these sub-terranean burrows.
The only other classroom in West Hall that you will ever see as an undergraduate is the auditorium. This room, which is designed to seat 800, is most commonly used for tests, and very large classes (such as Physics) when CC 308 and Sage Lecture Hall are already in use. Due to the extreme age and decrepitude of the room, however, only about 650 seats are still useable. There are two different types of seating in the Auditorium (or WHAud as it will appear on your schedule). The center section at the fromt of the room has been rebuilt in the last four years, and has black vinyl seats which make your bottom very sweaty in the summer, and tiny little writing desks which fold out from the chair arms. The rest of the auditorium is furnished with green vinyl seats which are a little easier to sit on in the summer, and writing desks with a fair amount of surface area which fold out from the seat back in front. These desks are much better than the new ones for taking tests, since there is a large amount of surface area for calculators, crib sheets, spare pencils or (if you are a masochist) pens, erasers, and munchies. Unfortunately, all of these seats were installed N years ago, and have not been overhauled since. Many of the desks are broken, so get there early and get one of the working ones, when you take a test in that room.
The Carnegie Building
The Carnegie Building is another of the favorite haunts of the various Humanities and Social Science schools; the Psychology Department lives there, as does the Economics Department, and sundry others. Classrooms exist on the first and second floors, and there are a few animal experimentation labs in the basement. The science and engineering departments have pretty much reserved the best rooms, down on the first floor, and Psychology and other social sciences pretty well have to live with the rooms on the second floor. Of course, these rooms are a long climb above the level where the doors are, which (surprisingly enough) is the first floor. The major characteristics of all the rooms in the building are: blackboards completely surrounding the room, creaky and splintery wooden floors, and standard issue Tute desks with hyperplastic writing surfaces.
The basement, where some psychology courses (notably Sensation and Perception) have lab classes, are very different. The tables are covered with metal, and have little ridges along the edges; this is intended to make them more useful for experiments involving dissection. The main thing that this means to the student is that there will be no place where it is safe to rest his arms during class, and no real way to take notes or tests. The basement is also pretty well equipped with Roach Motels; we will let you draw whatever conclusions you like from that.
One of the most interesting features of the Carnegie Building is that it has no rest rooms. Yes, they are there, all of the campus buildings have them, but in Carnegie, they are all locked, available only to the people who work in the offices. If you suddenly ``feel the urge,'' as it is sometimes called, and you are in Carnegie, you lose.
The Walker Labs
The Walker Labs are used primarily as a place to give freshman their first exposure to the perils of the Chem Lab. The entire first floor of the building is a large lab area, which is set up to allow all the Chem I and II students to do their experiments at the same time. (Well, actually, you take turns, but you all seem to be there at once, anyway.) There is more lab space in the basement, but you will never see that unless you are a chemist.
Up above the lab area, at the end of a twisty little staircase, there is a set of three classrooms separated by rather flimsy dividers. These classrooms are used to teach Chem students what they are supposed to be doing in the labs which they are busy messing up on the floor below. These rooms are fully equipped with hyperplastic desks, and even have overhead projectors, sometimes. They are occasionally used as overflow classrooms, when everything else is full. Officially, these three classrooms are now listed as a single classroom, which is just as well, since they were originally intended to be just one room; this room is known as WA 303. This is very good room to have classes in, if you can deal with the stairs; when it rains (which is almost all the time, in Troy), not only is the sound of rain on the copper roof just over your head very soothing, it also completely drowns out the lecturer.
These small classrooms are officially listed as being on the third floor; on the second floor, there is a room which is designed to be a lab, but which now serves as an auxiliary classroom. This room has been taken off the Registrar's list of classrooms, which is lucky for you because it isn't really very much of a classroom. You will see it only once, probably, during the second half of Chem I, when you will be required to work on the mathematical section of your last lab.
The stairs all through the building are small and twisty. There is an elevator hidden in the back of the building, which the Administration does not want anybody to use. The staff of Not the Rensselaer Handbook fully agree with the administration on this point; this elevator is so old as to be actively unsafe. The support ropes have not been inspected in years. Yes, that's ropes. Not cables. This elevator is one of the first Otis ever built.
The Amos Eaton building is one of the oldest buildings on campus. It has served as a library, and as a computer center; it currently serves as the home of most of the miscellaneous administrative services of the Tute, the Math and Computer Science departments, the ACM, and the Minicomputer Lab.
Let us look at two typical classrooms in Amos Eaton: AM 214 and AM 215. Logically enough, these are both on the second floor. Both of these rooms feature grey polyethylene chairs which are reasonable to sit on, but cause excessive sweating after an hour or so. AM 214 can be entered from the stairwell, or from the far hall; it contains a set of separate chairs with large, swing-up desks. These desks are again, ideal for taking tests; there is lots of room there for anything you care to bring with you. AM 215 can be entered only from the hall, and has long tables with free-floating chairs behind them. Both rooms are light on the audio-visual equipment.
On occasion, you will have to go and see a professor who has offices in the building. Generally, his offices will be on the fourth floor. If you look at Amos Eaton from the outside, you can see that it has only three stories. However, once you are inside, you can actually find large numbers of offices on the fourth floor, and they really exist, and they even have windows, just like the offices on the first, second, and third floors. This is one of the great mysteries of life here at the Tute: Where does the 4th floor of Amos Eaton really exist? The staff of Not the Rensselaer Handbook feel that the answer to this question is either Oz, Boston, or a small planet orbiting Betelgeuse.
Anyway. The main reason that Amos Eaton is so well populated is that it has a very large number of terminals for accessing Sybil. On the first and second floors, there are terminal rooms which are filled with random people talking to Sybil and hating every minute of it. These terminal rooms are good, because they are very heavy on the 3270-type terminals, and very bad because (a) everybody and their brothers knows about them, so that you will have to wait a long time for a terminal, and (b) the chairs are very plastic-like and non-porous, so that you sweat there both summer and winter.
Russell Sage Labs
The Russell Sage Labs have just been rebuilt, because they were pretty much falling apart inside. Now, the inside is a mixture of Modern Hideous and Archaic Leftover, somewhat indiscriminately mixed together. If you have any artistic sense at all, you will probably be apalled at the mess called ``interior design'' in this building. One of the more hideous creations fills a certain amount of empty space on the fourth floor; it consists of an entire model house, including windows and doors.
The Lecture Hall has been renovated; it is now very much heavier on the audio-visual equipment than it ever was before, and it also now has real seats. The desks are still miniscule, making this not a very good room to take tests in; and the roof leaks in places, making rainy day classes very much a game of Aqua Roulette.
The lecture hall at the end of the hall to your right as you enter the building has also been renovated. This room has some long official number, like SA 3510 (and yes, the ground floor of the Sage Building is the third floor). This room has comfortable seats and moderately sized swing-up desks. The front of the room is on the third floor of Sage Labs, and the back of the room is just above the third floor of the Sage Annex. This causes a certain amount of problems with the numbering of rooms, but this doesn't bother the Administration. So, why should it bother the students? Also, this creates a certain amount of trouble when people decide that the quickest way from their class in the Lecture Hall to their class in Sage Annex is through this room, and class is still being held. (But at least it breaks up the monotony.)
The Greene Building
Although the Greene building is primarily an architect's hangout, there are a few classrooms here which the average engineer can occasionally get into. These are generally used for engineering classes and the occasional humanity or social science. The method used to number the doors of the Greene Building seems to bear no relation to life in the universe as we know it. As a good first approximation, find the floor the room is supposed to be on, and then turn right. Most of the classrooms seem to be to the right of the main entrance, which is midway between the first and second floors.
Again, the main thing which you will find here are desks made of hyperplastic. The floors are splintery and unfinished; the walls are severely in need of paint; ceilings are high and tend to cause echoes.
The Troy Building
Conditions in the Troy building vary widely from room to room. In general, rooms on the first floor are designed with your comfort in mind, where rooms on the second floor are designed to keep you awake in class, and those on the third floor are designed to give the class a bit of comic relief when you fall off your stool and onto the floor. Let us look at a typical room on each floor.
Troy 101 is a fairly large hall, seating about 115. This room has soft seats, and small desks which hinge up from the seat arms. There are a couple of overheads in this room, and very little else. There are two windows in the back of the room which shed very little light into the room, and have not been opened in living memory.
Troy 203 has a very interesting alternative to seating. Imagine, if you will, a park bench with a desktop bolted to it every two feet. This is what you will be sitting on if you attend classes on the second floor of the Troy building. The gap between the desks is only just wide enough to allow you to sit down, and the desk itself is smaller than any other desk in the Tute. Also, since the chair is made of slats, the longer the class, the more agony you are in from the things cutting into your back. As if this weren't enough, since the seats are all joined together, any time anyone on this bench twitches, you feel it. The room is equipped with the bare minimum of audiovisual equipment, a blackboard. Life in this room will be very tiresome after only a very few classes.
Troy 301 is a set of high lab benches, equipped with very high stools and very little else. This room is usually used for recitations, rather than for actual classes; most of what you will be doing here will be brain work. I had always thought that the way to get the brain working was to make the body comfortable so that the brain didn't have to pay it any attention, but these rooms were not designed with that philosophy in mind. You will find that you will spend rather a lot of time on your feet in this classroom, trying to stretch out the kinks in your back. This condition is helped by the fact that the desks are all at the wrong height for the stools, or is that the other way around? Anyway, this is a very uncomfortable place to work.
One important fact to note about the Troy Building: like the Carnegie Building, all of the rest rooms are locked away where you can't get at them, and are reserved for the use of the people who work in the offices there.
The Jonsson Engineering Center
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The Ricketts Building
The Ricketts building is one of the few buildings on campus which could be called split-level. There are no real floors as such; instead, there are half-floors. For most of the building, the area to the left of the central stairwell, and to the right, are at different levels. The front door opens on the so-called first floor; however, this seems to bear very little relationship to the room numbering scheme. The only way to find your way to your classroom is by trial and error.
Some of the building has been modernized; most has not. The park benches with desks bolted onto them appear here and there throughout the building, primarily in the larger rooms. These seating arrangements are no better than the ones in the Troy building. Other rooms are rebuilt, and have reasonable desks, usually covered with white Formica, which are very nice for taking tests.
The Communications Center
The Communications Center was originally called the Modern Classroom Facility. It was designed to be a model of what classrooms should be like, and still almost fits the bill. There are three types of classrooms in the building: large, small, and bizarre.
The large classrooms are CC 308, 318, 324, and 330. These are all outfitted with lots of very bright lights, fairly large stage areas for demonstrations, a railing at the bottom to protect the lecturer, and huge amounts of audio-visual equipment. Or rather, they were supposed to be outfitted with huge amounts of audio-visual gear, but they weren't. The story behind that is as follows: Clay P. Bedford, after whom CC308 is officially named, donated enough money to equip CC308 with A/V gear. The Tute said, ``Thank you very much,'' and started looking around for more donors to outfit the rest of the CC. However, none were forthcoming. So, half of the A/V gear which had already been installed in CC308 was ripped out, and spread around the rest of the CC. This provided barely enough equipment for all the rooms other than CC308. The Administration does not want to remove any more equipment from 308, because it is their showcase classroom.
The desks are all bright yellow plastic bucket seats, which are individually bolted to the floor, and have large swing-up desk surfaces. There are projection booths at the back of the rooms to allow films, slides, and anything else to be shown to the gathered populace. There are, of course, no windows.
The small classrooms are down on the second floor. These rooms all started out having desks that were modeled after the ones in the large classrooms, with comfortable (albeit sweaty) seats and large writing surfaces. However, these did not last, and have been largely replaced by the standard-issue Tute desk, which has a much smaller writing surface. These rooms are small enough to be useful, and so are not very highly regarded by the Administration; they are outfitted with the bare minimum of A/V gear. Every pair of these rooms shares a single projection booth which has in many cases been set aside and converted to offices or laboratories for our less-distinguished professors.
There is only one of the bizarre classrooms in the building: CC 337, or the ``case study room,'' as the building plans call it. This room is set up as a large number of chairs gathered around a semi-circular stage, and arrayed so that up to 116 students can peer down at whoever or whatever is displayed on the stage. This tends to make professors nervous. In any event, this room is one of the better ones to have classes in. The chairs are arrayed behind long tables, thus allowing simply incredible amounts of desktop space for each student. The chairs recline and swivel, giving the student something to do to take his mind off the bletchfulness of the class. (Don't laugh, you'll find yourself doing it, too.) The chairs are very comfortable: it seems that, since they recline, they had to be made stronger than the other chairs in the CC. The material these chairs are made out of seems to be much more porous than any other chairs on the entire campus.
What this all boils down to is that, generally, the CC is, as it was designed to be, the best place to have classes on the entire campus. And CC 337 is better than any other room in the CC.
Why are we calling extra-curricular activities at RPI ridiculous? Because in general, they do nothing but hurt one's academic standing! Their only purpose in life is to take the student's mind off of the incredible work load he has, by giving him even more work in the form of a club! Only at Rensselaer!
The Grand Marshal and Senate
In the past, there have been only three GM's with peculiar initials in regard to the office at hand. In 1870, the first GM whose initials were GM was George C. MacGregor. The second and only other to date was Gordon Michaels, who was GM from 1975 to 1976. GM Mary Garrity (1983-1984) was the only GM ever to have it backwards, so to speak, as well as being the first woman GM.
The President of the Union and the Executive Board
In the past, there has been only one PU whose initials were PU. This illustrious character was Philip Ulrich who was PU in 1978. One student in the history of the offices of the GM and PU has held BOTH offices at sometime in his stay at RPI. This was Henry B. Voorhees, who held the post of GM in 1895-6, and the post of PU in 1894-5.
The Class Councils
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The IC and the IFC
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The Rules and Elections Committee
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The Grand Marshal Week Committee
This group of undergraduate and graduate students, which is formed in the early part of every spring semester, organize the activities of Grand Marshal Week for that year. They are responsible for the structure, budgeting and even the atmosphere of GM Week. They are not, however, responsible to the student body in matters concerning the weather, which always seems to dictate snow or rain on day with outdoors events.
The Polytechnic is RPI's campus newspaper, which is published weekly by the Polytechnic staff, a group of hard working students. The Poly details events of major interest on campus, recalls the latest sports facts, presents reviews of local entertainment, publishes classified and (usually very silly) unclassified ads, and has lots of filler. Well, nothing is perfect. The editorial point of view is usually centered around some major organization in the Union. One semester it will be the E-Board, another, the APO point of view. It fluctuates depending upon what club has the greatest membership in the Poly staff.
The Gorgon is RPI's one attempt at a literary publication. It is filled (not very heavily, mind you) with works of poetry, short stories, and sketches created by Rensselaer students. The input to the Gorgon is never too heavy, as the arts are a poorly favored subject with most students.
In it's heyday, the Unicorn was one of the funniest and most daring RPI publication to be funded by the Union. It is the great-grandson of The Pup, which was RPI's first humor publication. The Unicorn's biggest problem was that it couldn't resist taking jabs at real live people in the Rensselaer community. It was finally disbanded in Spring 1983 after a J-Board case which concerned some offensive material printed in it.
The Pole is a non-Union funded publication that was started by several students living in the E-Dorms in the Fall of 1980. The originators, two 15-year-old freshmen, calling themselves the ``Wiltsie Boatworks,'' had just finished winning the Hudson River Celebration Boat Contest, and decided to start a lampoon of the Polytechnic. Using clippings of Poly stories, they reworded stories in humorous and (usually) non-scathing ways. The Pole has steadfastly resisted Union monies, noting that the editorial control the E-Board would have would destroy their humorous impact.
The freshmen both failed out after one semester.
The Engineer is RPI's foremost publication on research and development at RPI. The articles within are usually of a fairly technical nature, and tend to display Rensselaer's research work as the most important work done on the campus. The issues tend to center on a general theme, and present articles written by graduate students and faculty. Lots of expensive ads from major research contractors can be found as filler, too.
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The Rensselaer Handbook
The Rensselaer Handbook is the Administration's attempt to prepair incoming students for life at RPI. Primarily an adminstrative rulebook, the student handbook does have some useful sections on adult life for the incoming freshmen-types. Unfortunately, the information about life external to RPI is very lacking, when not utterly inaccurate.
Not the Rensselaer Handbook
Not the Rensselaer Handbook, a student publication with uncertain staff and even more uncertain publishing goals, attempts to fill in the gaps that the adminstrative handbook cannot reach. It does this with no small measure of satire, not unlike the Pole.
The Performing Arts
The RPI Players
The Players are one of the oldest and largest student run clubs on campus. Their newly renovated 15th Street Playhouse is one of the landmarks of Rensselaer. The Players produce three shows in a typical scholastic year, two being large musicals, and one being a drama. Membership is open to all members of the Rensselaer Union, and the club is funded mostly through the Union, although a reasonable income is made by selling tickets to shows.
wE the Free Theatre
An offshoot of The RPI Players, wE the Free Theater works on plays that are of small casts and of bizzare topics. At this time, the actual existance of this organization is seriously tenuous.
Radio, Music, and Television
WRPI 91.5 FM Radio Rensselaer
Probably the most misunderstood club on campus, Radio Rensselaer is the student organization which is in charge of the radio station, WRPI. As part of it's operating budget, WRPI receives Union funding, but most of the people who actually do radio are not students.
The reasons for this are simple. First, WRPI is a ten thousand watt FM radio station, which has a vested interest in serving the entire Albany, Troy, and Schenectady areas, and not just a college radio station. Thus, WRPI must stay on the air during times when students are not around. These times can be summarized as Vacation and Summer. It is during those times that the non-student members of the station are so critical. The second reason that non-students are critical to the operation of WRPI is that very, very few RPI students are willing to make the kind of time commitment that working at WRPI involves. In other words, they can't get enough students to save their lives.
Another area of WRPI that is grossly misunderstood is its airsound. Students at RPI do not understand why ``their'' radio station doesn't play the same Top 40 music that they are accustomed to hearing. The reason, again, is two fold. First, the local commercial stations already do this, and would quickly lose their business (advertising) if WRPI started tearing their audience away from them. Second, WRPI is pledged to be an ``educational'' station. The goal of WRPI's airsound is simple: to play new and progressive music. This usually means music which is not commerically pushed as it is on other stations. The education comes in learning about music that one would normally never get to hear on commercial radio.
There are lots of things to do at WRPI besides doing a show. All of the electronic equipment in the studio and at the transmitter must be maintained by the members of WRPI. This is a great opportunity for aspiring EE's to get some real experience. The News Deparment is always looking for people to help with news announcing, and to work on a campus news show. There are lots of administrative tasks which have to be done, from checking opertions logs to sifting through Public Service Announcements for airplay. There is a production studio with multi-track recording capabilities being installed (again, by students) that will be used to record local bands. Remotes are a great way to go public and ``spin tunes.'' Serious Troy Music Hall fans can get involved with WRPI sponsored concert recordings, using state of the art digital equipment.
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The Union Programs and Activities Committee
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Special Interest Clubs
The Science Fiction Club
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The Science Fiction Games Club
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The Model Railroad Club
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The Rensselaer Sports Car Association
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The Society for Creative Anachronism
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The Chapter of Lists
How could this silliness be summarized better than by a chapter devoted to the most useful form of data organization, the list? These pages that follow contain the most obscure yet useful information available on RPI in a compact form that any non-Computer Science major can deal with (CompSci-types, just think in terms of LISP and things will work out).
What part of the student's life is not influenced by how that student communicates? Even the Institute has recognized the need for its student body to be more literate. Therefore, it is to this end that the following glossary of the language that is spoken at RPI is provided to those holding this book.
One will note, however, that the words contained herein are not spoken anywhere else, save for the bowels of IBM or at a social gathering at MIT. Still, it is essential to be able to understand your fellow man at lunch when he tells you that his HP-41CX has crashed and that his last APL project has de-rezed, in the hopes that you will offer some sympathy. Be warned that many of the words contained are not of a delicate nature, and that if you are offended by phrases such as ``Wankel Rotary Engine,'' you shouldn't be reading this anyway.