Uncovering Rensselaer’s finances

An analysis of 15 years of policy and how RPI fares against its competitors

Since the turn of the new millennium, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been changed through the implementation of President Shirley Ann Jackson’s The Rensselaer Plan. Under The Plan, major campus construction, such as the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, and the East Campus Athletic Village, have been completed. Additionally, hundreds of new staff have been hired to work at the Institute, including researchers, administrators, and professors. Major changes like these have been implemented with the intention of bringing Rensselaer to further prominence in the higher education community. With these changes have come increased costs that had not been previously handled by the Institute. As it is registered as a non-profit organization, Rensselaer’s tax returns, in the form of Internal Revenue Service Form 990, are published each fiscal year and are required to be made available to the general public for inspection. This article will look to analyze trends in Rensselaer’s finances since 1999, and then compare them to those of similar research universities operating at a similar scale.

We have chosen three research universities with similar characteristics to RPI to be used in this analysis as benchmarks when comparing Rensselaer’s financial data. These universities are also non-profit organizations and must file their tax returns as Form 990. The schools we compared are Lehigh University, which is nearly identical to Rensselaer in terms of its operational budget; Rochester Institute of Technology, which operates on a slightly larger scale than RPI, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which operates on a smaller scale than RPI. All four of the institutions to be analyzed were founded in the 19th century. To give distinct reference points on the similarities of the universities, Rensselaer operated at a 13-year average total revenue of $374.7 million from 1999 to 2013. Comparatively, Lehigh operated at an average of $368.3 million, RIT operated at an average of $476.3 million, and WPI at an average of $170.5 million.

At the end of the 1999–2000 fiscal year, RPI had net assets which totaled $929.7 million. 13 years later, at the conclusion of the 2012–13 fiscal year, this number was $414.8 million, a decrease of 55 percent. Comparatively, in these 13 years, Lehigh, RIT, and WPI all increased their net assets, with changes of 42 percent, 25 percent, and 10 percent, respectively.

One cause for the loss of net assets may be that, according to our analysis, the Institute has ended nine out of the last 13 years with an operational deficit. In this analysis, operational surpluses or deficits are defined as the value in Part 1 of Form 990, on line 19 “Revenue Less Expenses” of the current form. The six most recent years had operational deficits leading up to the most recently reported deficit of fiscal year 2012–13, which was $18.1 million. Over these six years, the yearly deficit peaked at $83.2 million in 2010–11 and has totaled a loss of $253.6 million since the 2007–08 fiscal year. Before the streak of deficits, there had been a pattern of alternating sets of years with deficits and sets of years resulting in strong surpluses. Overall, from fiscal year 2000–01 through the most recently available data, Rensselaer brought in a total surplus of $15.2 million. Since fiscal year 2000–01, WPI has generated a similar total to RPI at $16.2 million. The same is not the case for RIT, whose operational surplus totals $174.5 million. Even further still, Lehigh University’s surplus totals $476.4 million. During these six years of consecutive deficits which have occurred at Rensselaer, WPI produced a total deficit of $3 million, while RIT and Lehigh generated net surpluses of $141.8 million and $216.5 million, respectively.

The newest, most expensive construction project that came to the Rensselaer campus in the 13 year period was EMPAC. It was originally announced on July 5, 2001, with a planned construction cost of $50 million and an expected opening date in Fall 2003. However, by the time ground was broken on the project in September of 2003, the revised construction cost became $141 million, and EMPAC was expected to be ready for opening in 2006. Neither of these plans were achieved, with EMPAC finally holding its grand opening in October 2008, with a reported cost that exceeded $200 million. The construction of EMPAC, along with the previously mentioned CBIS and ECAV, was planned to be funded by donations received through the Capital Campaign, which the Institute ran throughout the decade. Its total fundraising goal was $1 billion.

As a result of these multimillion dollar facilities being constructed, Rensselaer’s debt load began to increase as well. At the conclusion of fiscal year 1999–2000, the Institute’s total liabilities were $201.6 million, with the large majority of this made up by the $135.7 million in Mortgages and Other Notes Payable (1999–2000 Form 990, Part IV, Line 66b), which they held at the time. During that fiscal year, RPI had zero reported debt in the form of tax-exempt bonds. The first large spike in debt occurred in fiscal year 2001–02 with the Mortgages and Other Notes Payable value increasing to $321 million from the previous year’s $130.7 million. Next, in fiscal year 2005–06, the amount, which had remained fairly stable in the previous three years, jumped to $441.3 million. Starting in fiscal year 2007–08, the same year which EMPAC held its grand opening and the streak of operational deficits began, RPI began carrying tax-exempt bond liabilities along with the previous debt, which was now classified as Unsecured Notes and Loans Payable on the then-newly revised version of the Form 990. In the eight years since fiscal year 1999–2000, RPI’s total liabilities had reached $825.5 million, a 310 percent increase. A majority of this was made up of the new $249.3 million of tax-exempt bond debt, combined with the $396.6 million of unsecured notes and loans payable.

When Rensselaer first announced that they would be issuing bonds to help finance EMPAC, Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Virginia Gregg reported that the planned amount to be issued would be $160 million through 2007. Upon this announcement in February 2006, Moody’s Investors Service, a credit rating agency, dropped RPI’s bond rating from A1 to A2. The rating today is A3 with a negative outlook.

Two years after the initial bond debt, in fiscal year 2009–10, the tax-exempt bond liabilities nearly doubled, reaching a new total of $495.7 million. It appears that a large amount of the other debt held in the Form 990 category of Unsecured Notes and Loans Payable was issued in the form of additional bonds, as that entry was decreased to $273.6 million following the previous year’s $452.3 million. This tax-exempt bond debt is explained in detail in Schedule K for the Form 990s, entitled Supplemental Information on Tax Exempt Bonds. The bonds have been issued by two separate organizations: the City of Troy Capital Resource Corporation, which, as of the most recently available form, still holds $357 million in bonds, and the remainder, held by Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency, totaling $64 million. All of the proceeds from these bonds are reported to have been spent. The City of Troy Capital Resource Corporation is directly affiliated with the city itself, and appears to, at this time, exist solely to manage the two sets of bonds it has issued for RPI. From its financial reports, it can be found that the corporation issued the first set of bonds in April of 2010 at a total issue price of $311.6 million and carrying a variable interest rate. As of December 31, 2013, none of these funds had been repaid. The bonds reach final maturation in September 2040. A second, smaller set of bonds were issued in June 2010, totaling $47.2 million. These have been paid down to a debt of $44.6 million, carry a set interest rate of three percent, and reach final maturation in September 2021. A further detailed financial report for the corporation can be found on the city’s website.

To gain further perspective on RPI’s debt load, total liabilities sit at $1.01 billion, as of the most recently available data, from FY 2012–13. Lehigh University holds total liabilities of $390.6 million, (57 percent of which are tax-exempt bonds), RIT’s total liabilities are $543.8 million, (55 percent of which are tax-exempt bonds), and WPI’s total liabilities are $308.4 million, (73 percent of which are tax-exempt bonds.)

Because of Rensselaer’s increased debt load, throughout the decade, more and more of its net assets have become restricted. This means that the restricted portion of money is not available for everyday expenses, as it is withheld to cover outstanding liabilities. Since fiscal year 2010–11, the Institute’s unrestricted net assets have been negative—as of the most recently available data standing at (-)$89.7 million. This figure states that an organization is legally unable to spend their assets in any way of their choosing. Lehigh, RIT, and WPI each have unrestricted net assets of $733.6 million, $701.5 million, and $256.3 million, respectively, for fiscal year 2012–13.

Rensselaer consistently ranks as one of the top universities in the U.S. However, the rankings have remained fairly stagnant in the last several years, with the exception of the 2012 US News and World Report ranking which was 50th in the nation, the publication has given RPI a ranking of either 41 or 42 since 2008. For further historical data on RPI’s ranking, it held 39 in 1997 before fully dropping out of the top 50 in 2001. After returning to 49th in 2002, the Institute then gained a place or two each year before reaching 42nd in 2007.

In addition to top college rankings, Rensselaer also often ranks as having one of the highest tuitions. Ranking in at 17th on Business Insider’s most recent “America’s REAL Most Expensive Colleges” list. For the 2000–01 academic year, base tuition at RPI was $22,956. Over the next 12 years, tuition increased each successive year at an average of 4.99 percent, leading to a tuition of $43,350 for 2012–13. This is a total increase of 88.84 percent.

At any institution of higher education, tuition and fees for other services paid for by students make up a large portion of the organization’s revenue. From fiscal years 2000–01 to 2007–08, the average percentage revenue contribution for tuition and fees was 53 percent, with only a single year exceeding 60 percent. Since fiscal year 2008–09 to the present, the average is 66 percent, with all years exceeding 60 percent. This trend is in contrary to a Rensselaer Plan goal set out in May 2002, by Gregg. The implementation of The Plan, according to Gregg, would eventually allow for revenue at Rensselaer to be split into three equal sectors of 33 percent, representing tuition, research, and “all other revenue.” For some comparison, Lehigh’s tuition and fees contribution percentage hovers between 45 and 60 percent, while RIT’s runs between 50 and 65 percent, and WPI’s numbers have been varied over the 13–year analysis period, coming in as low as 46 percent and as high as 81 percent.

While tuition at all four institutions has increased at a fairly similar rate, the total revenue that RPI brought in has increased at a far slower rate than its own tuition has risen and when compared with the competitor schools. (For RPI, Lehigh, RIT, and WPI respectively, the 2000–01 tuitions were $22,956, $23,210, $18,252.00, and $23,262.00. While the 2012–13 tuitions were $43,350, $41,920, $32,784, and $41,380.) Total revenue has only increased 34.72 percent when comparing fiscal years 2012–13 with 1999–2000, but tuition has increased 88.84 percent in that same span. Lehigh’s increases for total revenue and tuition respectively are 80.61 percent and 55.02 percent, while RIT’s are 79.62 percent and 95.13 percent and finally WPI’s are 77.89 percent and 174.41 percent.

A large contributing factor for RPI’s slowed revenue growth—when compared to other institutions whose tuition and fee revenue has increased at a similar rate—is due to the sharp decrease in grants and donations received by RPI in recent years. For fiscal years 2000–01 to 2009–10, the average revenue from donations and grants was $114.6 million (with no year less than $89 million), or just under 30 percent of total revenue. However, since that time, for the last three available years, the average donation/grant revenue per year has been just $38.2 million. Even with this drop in revenue, the Institute has continued to pay out an average of $133.6 million in grants and assistance to others.

Of course, Rensselaer has gone through the previously mentioned expansion during the period for which finances have been analyzed. Lehigh University also went through a period of growth on its campus at the very end of the 1990s, with two multimillion dollar projects in the form of a large performing arts center and sports complex, both meeting campus needs akin to EMPAC and ECAV. These projects were completed around 1999, so theoretically, RPI would be at a similar state now as Lehigh may have been in about 2004 or 2005.

The Poly reached out to members of the Institute’s administration for a statement on RPI’s financial strategies in recent years. In response, Vice President of Strategic Communications and External Relations David Brond provided: “We have balanced the operating budget, every year, for the past 15 years, and made strategic investments that have enhanced the university and which have resulted in a tripling of applications. We continue to attract very bright students, with excellent prospects when they graduate. We have transformed the student experience; built world class platforms; tripled research; hired 320 new faculty; and elevated university rankings. We have withstood, and managed through two major dislocations in the economy during this time frame; the tech bubble burst and a financial crisis. We are proud of what we have accomplished.”

To conclude this analysis, we will review the facts presented. In the years since 1999, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has decreased its total net assets by 55 percent, due to taking on nearly $1 billion in new liabilities. Beyond this, the complete amount and then more of the Institute’s current net assets have been fully restricted, disallowing them from being spent. Direct reasons for these changes stem from six consecutive years of operational deficits, the issuance of nearly $500 million in tax-exempt bonds to cover costs on new campus constructions, and a steep decrease in the yearly revenue made up by grants and donations coming into Rensselaer. It is important to remember, however, that the increased spending has brought world-class facilities and educational services to RPI. All of this has occurred while tuition has continued to increase at a steady rate, leading to a rise in percentage contribution of tuition to RPI’s total revenue. Three competitor universities, Lehigh, RIT, and WPI, have been used as reference points on Rensselaer’s performance, with all of these institutions appearing to have statistically stronger performance in the years that have been analyzed. It remains to be seen if these trends will continue into future years. The data for fiscal year 2013–14 will become available in the coming months.

Editor’s Notes:

All values used in this article are rounded for enhanced comprehension.

All monetary figures in this article are stated in the dollar value of the year in which they were reported to the IRS.

All IRS Form 990(s) which were used to compile this article are available through ProPublica. RPI IRS Form 990(s) are available at http://poly.rpi.edu/s/rpi990

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Ad-dress-ing social media phenomena

On February 27, a Tumblr user posted a picture of a dress and asked her followers if it was black and blue or white and gold. Within a half hour, her post received over 500 likes and incited a massive social reaction, with celebrities tweeting and thousands retweeting and posting their own opinions on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. The whole ordeal lasted more than three hours, with further posts the following day.

Many news sources confirmed that the dress, in real life, is in fact black and blue, not white and gold. However, in the picture, the discrepancy among these millions of viewers is due to color constancy, which is the subjectiveness of human color perception under different illumination conditions. Like an optical illusion, the lighting of the picture changed people’s color identification.

Almost all the members of The Poly knew about this dress a couple hours after the picture was posted. Even we have differing opinions on what we see in the photo; however, we find the social phenomenon itself more interesting. The post sparked articles from The New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post. It’s crazy to think about how something as simple as the color of a dress could spark so much controversy.

Social media has a profound effect on society today, and just like this dress, almost anything can go viral in a matter of hours. Whether it be the next amazing ski video or another green and purple dress, social media increases the accessibility of content to everyone. This is why The Poly created a social media coordinator position last semester.

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Local acts bring spark to school

On Saturday, February 28, UPAC Concerts held a concert at Mother’s Wine Emporium in the Rensselaer Union. The concert featured opening act Bell’s Roar and local Albany group Mirk.

When I showed up with a friend, there were about 20 people total, in addition to UPAC Sound members, who were working the equipment. The room was set up with chairs on the left side, stage in the far back corner, and sound control in the middle. Mother’s as a musical venue is a weird concept; typically, in a regular concert venue that enjoys large attendance, there is a raised stage and a barrier that separates the concert goers from the band. Clearly, in Mother’s, there can be no easy way to separate the band and audience, and I ended up being an arm’s length away from the singers during both acts, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Before the show began, everyone was seated in the chairs on the left side of the room, but the speakers blocked my view, so I couldn’t even see the stage clearly. Now, I consider myself an extroverted person—at least among my friends—so I stood up and dragged my friend over to the stage to get a better view. Eventually, Sean Desiree, solo artist of Bell’s Roar, encouraged others in the audience to come closer to the stage, and the floor filled out a bit more. I was relieved that I wasn’t really the only one standing. As Desiree talked with the crowd in between songs, and later, when Mirk made witty comments, the atmosphere became warmer and less awkward, unlike when the show first began.

Bell’s Roar, as an experimental sound, was an interesting experience for me. Combined with the more personal interaction Mother’s allowed, Desiree’s pieces rang passionate and full of energy. At first, she only provided vocals on her electronically generated instrumentals, but she moved on to perform on guitar and synthesizer. My favorite song from her is “Slow.” Since the songs were performed live, Bell’s Roar also remixed some of the songs to better fit the venue’s set up and flow. Overall, though this isn’t music that I typically listen to, I enjoyed being exposed to it and its unique sound.

Mirk was more my cup of tea. Their band consists of lead vocalist Joshua Mirsky, guitarist Mike Thornton, bassist Kate Sgroi, saxophonist Chris Russell, keyboardist James Rock, and drummer Stephen Struss. Since their genre is a mix between rock and R&B, their music has a distinct summer vibe with a laid-back feel. However, during the show, the band played tracks from their soon-to-be-released album, Run, and gave a high energy performance. Thornton, Sgroi, and Rock all provided fantastic backup vocals to Mirsky, harmonizing at many parts during the set. Watching the band members interact during the act was also entertaining, with Rock and Struss playfully toss things at each other as Sgroi energetically moved around her part of the stage. Both Thornton and Russell played fast paced, skillful solos that made me wonder why they weren’t more well known. Mirksky gave a handful of rap riffs which had stellar flow, made more impressive by the fact that it was live.

Mirk also played a couple pop favorites, “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 and “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. Their spin on these hits were entertaining to see adapted to a full live band setting. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Overall, the concert was fantastic, even though Mother’s is a weird venue for music acts. Once the ice was broken, the show was a lot more enjoyable, with more people up by the stage. Both Bell’s Roar and Mirk put on energetic performances that I hadn’t experienced before. However, the room definitely could have used more than the twenty audience members that were present. I will be keeping an eye out for the next concert in the Spring Concert Series. For more information regarding future shows, visit http://concerts.union.rpi.edu/.

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Men’s hockey wins late on senior night

FRESHMAN FORWARD DREW MELANSON SKATES for a loose puck in a game against Yale University. The Engineers tied Clarkson and defeated St. Lawrence last weekend at Houston Field House.

This past weekend was a solid outing for the Engineers by this season’s standards as they were able to tie the Clarkson Golden Knights 3-3 on Friday and defeated the St. Lawrence Saints 4-3 on Saturday. The Engineers looked strong in both action-packed games and built some momentum to head into the postseason.

On Friday, the Golden Knights came to the Houston Field House to take on the Engineers in front of a crowd 4,041 strong. The first period saw the majority of the game’s action, delivering five goals between the two teams. Rensselaer opened the scoring only 4:07 into the period as freshman forward Viktor Liljegren came around the net and found some space, burying one top shelf. He was set up by senior defender Luke Curadi and freshman defenseman Mike Prapavessis. Clarkson would answer back just under three minutes later on the power play to even the score, 1-1. The Golden Knights found their second goal of the night 13:17 into the period to take the lead by one. Less than a minute later, freshman forward Drew Melanson jammed home a rebound off of a play from junior forward Mark Miller and freshman forward Lou Nanne to even the score at 2 for the Engineers. The fifth goal of the period, and third for the Engineers, came off of a nice three-on-two rush set up by senior forward Jacob Laliberte, allowing senior forward Matt Neal to find the trailing man Mark McGowan, who beat the Clarkson goalie top shelf. The Engineers would head into the second period with a 3-2 lead.

An uneventful second period that saw no goals or penalties was only highlighted by a goaltender change for the Golden Knights to start the period. With Rensselaer still leading by a score of 3-2, the third period got under way. A tumultuous start to the period saw a couple of penalties arise off of a hit in the Clarkson zone leading to a prolonged Golden Knights power play. The Engineers were able to fend off the attack, and with 8:44 left to play, RPI seemed to have found a fourth goal. However, the goal was waved off and the score remained 3-2. Just two minutes later, Clarkson found its third goal to tie the game. The Knights took a penalty late in the period, presenting an opportunity for the Engineers to retake the lead, but Rensselaer was unable to capitalize and the game headed to overtime. The extra five minutes were an empty five minutes, and when the final horn sounded, the game ended in a 3-3 tie.

The Engineers played their second game of the weekend against the St. Lawrence Saints for Senior Night on Saturday. Senior goalie Scott Diebold got the start instead of usual starter Jason Kasdorf and was arguably the best Engineer on the ice. Early first period penalties against the Engineers led to numerous chances fended off by Diebold. Eventually, with under a minute to play, the Saints were able to put home a rebound on the power play to take the lead into the locker room for the first intermission.

The Engineers came out of the locker room and answered back quickly. Only 2:30 into the second period, McGowan found Prapavessis in the high slot, who beat the Saints goalie to score his first collegiate goal and tie the game. St. Lawrence continued to pepper Diebold with shots and took a 2-1 lead 5:01 into the period. The Saints looked to continue their momentum, but were stifled by Diebold, who made two acrobatic saves just before the midway point in the period. Moments later, freshman defender Bradley Bell gave Melanson a beautiful stretch pass up the middle of the ice to spring Melanson on a breakaway. Melanson made no mistake, tucking the puck between the goaltenders legs to tie the game at 2-2. The Saints would get their own breakaway chance moments later, but Diebold was able to come up big once more and keep the game tied. With eight minutes left in the period, the Saints were called for cross checking, giving the Engineers the man advantage. Rensselaer capitalized as Melanson tucked home his second goal of the night, banging a rebound into the twine. Less than a minute later, RPI would take a penalty of their, own giving St. Lawrence a power play. Twice, the Saints thought they took the lead, and twice Diebold was there to say no, sprawling across his crease to keep the puck out of the net. After a period filled with four goals and even more chances, the game headed to the third with the Engineers protecting a 3-2 lead.

After trading penalties early in the period, the game’s sixth goal would come 10:54 into the period as the Saints were able to pull even with the Engineers 3-3. A huge opportunity for the Engineers came about two minutes later as McGowan was tripped as he drove to the net on a breakaway. The referee raised his arms in an “x” above his head, signaling for a penalty shot. McGowan started in on his one-on-one with St. Lawrence goalie Kyle Hayton with speed and made a quick move right to left before blowing a shot past the Saints’ netminder, blocker side, to give the Engineers a 4-3 lead. McGowan would come up big again, though at the other end of the ice, as he cleared away a puck that laid in the crease in front of a wide open net. In the waning minutes of the game, St. Lawrence was forced to pull their goalie to try to find a game tying goal. Despite an onslaught of shots and bodies, Diebold was able to keep the puck out of the net. At the final buzzer, the score was 4-3 RPI.

Rensselaer finished the regular season 10-23-3 overall and 8-12-2 in conference play with 18 points giving them the 9th seed in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Engineers begin their playoff schedule by taking on the 8th seed Clarkson Golden Knights in a best-of-three series in Potsdam this weekend. The winner of that series will go on to play number 1 seed Quinnipiac in the quarterfinals on March 13–15.

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FCC votes for neutrality

On Thursday, February 26, the Federal Communications Commission voted to enact Title II regulation on internet service providers, including cellular carriers, in an effort to protect “net neutrality.” The principle of “net neutrality” was that access to all websites should be equally favored, and that no sites should be blocked. This ruling would block ISPs from enacting paid “fast lanes” or prioritization of traffic, and reclassifies them as common carriers, similar to how telephone utility companies are currently regulated. The net neutrality debate has been a long one, garnering public and corporate interests on both sides of the fence.

The debate began in January 2014, after a federal appeals court struck down preliminary net neutrality rules enacted previously, and Comcast began to throttle the traffic of sites such as Netflix due to their high traffic and bandwidth usage. The two companies later reached an agreement where Netflix would pay Comcast to enable faster speeds, allowing for faster access to their site. According to Comcast, the high demands on bandwidth for streaming video sites such as Netflix caused strain on their network, and “paid fast lanes” such as this would enable them to provide faster and better service to their customers.

A number of companies, and much of the public at large, were discomfited by the idea that service providers could “hold hostage” sites such as Netflix in order to gain revenue. Many high-profile members of the tech industry, such as Google and Facebook, as well as a number of important personalities, such as so-called “Founder of the Web” Tim Berners-Lee, all called for equal and unrestricted access to all sites, without ISP interference. Proponents of net neutrality called for a revision of the rules to protect open access, and the FCC responded by pledging to make a decision on the matter. During the following comment period, over four million comments were received by the FCC.

As the vote drew closer, opponents of net neutrality began to speak out against it. Telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon, as well as hardware companies like IBM, Intel, and Cisco, believed that enacting net neutrality rules would cause a decrease in investment in infrastructure, decrease competition, potentially increase taxes, enact unnecessary regulation, and create barriers to entry into markets.

According to the opponents of net neutrality, the enacting of Title II regulation, which would bring about net neutrality, would also result in decreased service and increased government regulation. Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, responded, however, saying, “this is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech.”

Last Thursday’s vote saw passionate speeches from both opinions; in the end, the vote passed, 3-2. The debate is not yet over, though. Many supporters and opponents of net neutrality alike have remarked that Congress and the Judicial Branch still have the ability to strike down the new regulation, through new legislation or lawsuits, respectively. The new rules will go into effect within 60 days, barring any challenges.

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Be the best you can be

I’m a bit of a romantic at heart; if you’ve read my other notebooks, you already know. However, what you don’t know is that, I’ve been through my fair share of relationships. Now, I have a couple of friends that are going through relationship problems and some that are having trouble finding their “one.” I’m not a relationship guru, but I do have some reasonable points that should be followed if you’re looking for someone else in your life.

Before you even consider adding someone to your already complex life, do some introspection. A good relationship needs a strong foundation. Without a firm base, being the two people in the relationship, the whole house will fall apart. Think about it. Am I confident in myself and all that I do? Am I comfortable most in a high energy setting, like a party, or more laid back with just some close friends? You should be your own person and realize what your limits are. Then, test yourself and push those limits. Be open to feedback, but don’t be swayed by everyone’s whim. Stand for yourself, but help others when in need. What I’m trying to say is, above all, be the best person that you can be.

The one building block that is the most important of all is hygiene. It’s an unspoken quality. No one will tell you your breath smells or that you smell like a gorilla to your face. People are too polite for that. Also, that’s being rude to gorillas. Lucky me, as a child, my breath always smelled like stuff that usually goes in a porcelain bowl. So, my father always told me to brush my teeth. Imagine how much nose pinching I saved people as a kid; your mom’s not going to be there to tell you to shower for your first date.

On the same note as physical characteristics, exercise is a significant part of attraction and one of relationship’s founding blocks. I’m not saying that you need to get swole or become a marathon runner, but you should physically exert yourself doing something on a regular basis. Exercise makes you look fit; however that’s not the only reason why you should be doing it. Running, sports, lifting, almost anything, instills discipline and confidence in your constant mental thought process. It’s a subtle, yet powerful influence, as it releases positive endorphins that make you feel better and healthier as a person. It will even give you that slight boost of confidence to go talk to that attractive person over there.

Oh? Now you’re talking to that attractive person? What do you talk about? Well, here’s something that’ll help you start conversations: do activities that you think are interesting. You should always be willing to try new things. It’ll help you become a more interesting person, and if the activity is part of a club or organization, it’ll help you build social skills. It’s something to talk about. Just put all you’ve got behind whatever you’re interested in and your passion will outwardly show through the way you speak and your nonverbal gestures.

I’m just brushing the surface on how to be a better you. Keep yourself clean and exercise regularly. Remember, I’m not saying you have to be a super social butterfly extrovert. Just don’t be afraid to talk to people. Join something that you’ll get the most out of and don’t stay in your room all night. Though it’s nice to stay in and watch a few TV shows, you’re not going to meet your future significant other if you do that every day. Trust me, if I didn’t go to Commons Dining Hall that day with some friends, I never would have met Isabel Johnson, who is the Yogi to my Boo Boo.

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CSSA spring bonanza brings culture-ful fun

Club puts on annual show for festival

On the first pleasant day in a while, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association hosted their annual Spring Festival Eve show. West Hall lit up with bright lights and was filled with singing, dancing, acting and games for the audience to enjoy. The show featured many RPI CSSA members as well as Union College performers. The night showcased these students’ culture and certainly celebrated the festival in style.

However, I will admit that I didn’t always know exactly what was happening on stage or off. The entire show was in Chinese and it seemed as though everyone attending also spoke the language. The Masters of Ceremonies did translate their spiels before each act, but during the plays and songs, I couldn’t always get the full experience due to the language barrier. However, I can still appreciate a singer’s voice or the beauty of a calligrapher’s work. I wish that I could fully appreciate the depth of the culture so that all of the performers’ efforts could be recognized.

Before the hosts took the stage, the crowd was full of enthusiastic people of all ages, from young children, to RPI students, to community members and faculty. When the lights dimmed and everyone hushed, the club opened the show with a video full of new year’s well wishes with messages from CCTV newscasters, Barack Obama, Union students and the club’s members. Finally, the hosts, in their flowing dresses and sharp suits, took the stage.

The entire show was studded with fun pieces, beautiful singing, and cultural gems. The second act of the night, a short performance of Beijing Opera, brought out the pure and traditional Chinese culture. The female singer was fashioned in classic Beijing Opera style; complete with face paint, bright yellow robes along with headdress and the twangy timbre of her voice. I really enjoyed getting to see a glimpse of the unique art style. Another exciting part of the night was the student-directed and acted play put on by the RPI students. I didn’t understand the whole story but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The foam swords fights, the comedic reveal that two of the characters were in fact siblings, and a Street Fighter duel all helped me laugh along with the rest of the crowd.

The night was full of energy-driven acts, with belting singers, comedy, and enthusiastic bands, but what truly stood out to me that night were the infusions of classic Chinese culture. When a guzheng was revealed from behind the curtain about halfway through the show, I became incredibly excited. This zither-like Chinese instrument has long been a particular love of mine. The tone of the instrument’s voice is rich and beautiful and truly exemplifies the classic oriental music. The speed and grace of the artist’s fingers along the strings allowed her to freely express the music. Alongside the guzheng was a calligrapher who worked magic with ink, leaving a beautifully written message afterwards. Another traditional Chinese instrument that made an appearance was the pipa, a lute-like instrument that briefly introduced one of the night’s many dance groups. These elements of Chinese culture invigorated the night and brought flavor and refinement to the night of performances.

This year’s CSSA show was a huge success, with many interesting and enjoyable acts for every audience member. It was a night to celebrate the culture of many RPI students and to appreciate the time and effort that went into it. With raffles, fun games, and engaging hosts, the show succeeded in capturing the spirit of the festival and brought smiles to the faces of everyone who came.

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Racquetball takes third in conference

THE RPI RACQUETBALL TEAM HOLDS trophies after third place finishes in the Eastern Collegiate Racquetball Conference. Next up for the racquetball team is a trip to Arizona for the National Championships during Spring Break.

This weekend, the RPI racquetball team traveled down to Chalfont, Pa. for the 2015 Northeast Collegiate Regional Racquetball Championships. During the tournament, the season results were announced, and RPI placed third place in the men’s and women’s divisions after competing in the past four tournament meets. This is the first time since the late 2000s that the RPI racquetball team has placed in the top three. Additionally, the women’s team placed third at the regional championships, with the men’s team placing fourth. The team will be traveling to Tempe, Ariz. for the 2015 US Intercollegiate National Racquetball Championships, hosted at Arizona State University starting March 25, 2015.

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Amendment votes

Michael Han ’16 proposes a new idea to bring 15 new picnic tables to RPI campus.

The Senate met last Thursday with a very full schedule, which included two presentations and three constitutional amendments. But first, the Senate made two new appointments. Joshua Rosenfeld ’16 was appointed parliamentarian in a 16-0-8 vote and Keegan Caraway ’18 was appointed secretary in a 22-0-2 vote.

Michael Han ’16 then began the first presentation on a proposed picnic table project. The idea of the project is to buy approximately 15 new picnic tables to place around campus, encouraging more students to study and socialize outdoors during the warmer months of the year. The tables would be built by student organizations with a “brought to you by” plaque to thank them. The administration has already pledged $2,000 to the project. Han is presenting to the Executive Board next week in hopes of receiving the rest of the funding. Graduate student Jenn Wilcox questioned whether there would be liabilities with having students assemble picnic tables. Han said that the tables would come in five pieces and should not be difficult to assemble. However, his committee will be assembling one table beforehand so that they may assist the student organizations and ensure everything runs smoothly. Mason Cooper ’17 asked if it would be possible for the tables to be decorated by whomever assembles them. Although he liked the idea, Han worried that a rivalship between clubs and organizations might cause the tables to be vandalized.

Next, Justin Etzine ’18 presented proposed changes to the Senate bylaws. Many of these changes address clarifying quorum requirements and officially defining queues as the primary method of debate. These changes are still in early stages, but Shoshauna Rubinstein ’16 emphasized the importance of not overcomplicating queues. She worried that guests would not feel welcomed if they are told they are “speaking wrong” because the queue system is complex. Etzine encouraged the senators to contact him about proposed changes.

The main topic of the evening was Senate constitutional amendments presented by Nathan James ’15. The first amendment was titled General Fixes and Disambiguation, which would allow for grammar and language changes, as well as changes such as moving part d to part c if the previous part c was removed. This was passed in a 21-0-3 vote.

At this point, there was a motion to postpone the discussion of amendments because the meeting had stretched beyond two hours and many senators were anxious to adjourn. Wilcox and Caraway opposed the motion and felt that since senators were emailed the changes, they should have been prepared for the meeting. Paul Ilori ’17 argued back, saying that physical discussion among Senators was important before these changes are voted on. Since many senators were tired and ready to leave, he felt that proper discussion would be avoided and the amendments moved to vote sooner than necessary. After some back and forth among Senators, there was a motion to vote on the issue, which passed 16-5. The Senate adjourned with the intention of having a special meeting outside of the weekly Thursday meetings to cover what was missed. The special meeting is expected to be held on Monday, March 9 at 7 pm; the location has not yet been determined.

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Do it yourself Sim City

I’ve always loved the maps on the inside of books like those in A Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. Some in-class boredom last semester lead me to doodle mountains, rivers, and city layouts in my notes. Some larger blank pages lead to the first draft of a map for my own imaginary world. But, I felt my scribbles were lacking, so I went searching online to improve my artistic skills. A few articles in on “how to draw fantasy maps,” I stumbled upon the term “worldbuilding.” Worldbuilding is the process of designing a world with its own people, history, geography, and ecology. From there, my imagination took off.

After some more research, I determined that my first draft was extremely lacking in geographical accuracy. Cue me spending an hour on Wikipedia learning about how mountains, rivers, and forests come and go. More thought and careful planning went into the second draft, which is much closer to the version I am currently working with.

With a general map design secured, I started to think about the history and culture of the people that would populate my world. It is a huge writing project to undertake, and even now, I am still struggling to start because there are so many interdependent aspects of history and culture that I want to cover. I think the best way to start is an overarching outline of everything that needs to be covered. I tried diving right into the juicy parts of the world history, but found that I couldn’t write a war without motivations, and to explain the motivations I needed histories of both civilizations and their previous relations. Repeat ad nauseum. Sometimes it feels like everything needs to plop down on the page, or my Google doc, all at once for anything to ever make sense. Despite this, I still love letting my mind wander off thinking about made up economies, relations, and cultures.

If this sounds like something that interests you, I encourage you to try it out! The awesome thing about worldbuilding is that it can be as detailed or as scarce as you decide. I knew from the start that I wanted my world to be as detailed as possible, but that does not have to be the case for your world. Worldbuilding should be an escape from reality. It can be easy to get caught up in all the math and science we have at RPI. Sometimes, it’s just better to imagine.

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RMA plays smooth tunes

THE 8TH STREET SWING BAND PERFORMS with Janice Pendarvis for the “Heroes, Heartache, and One-Hit Wonders” concert put on by the RMA Jazz groups in the EMPAC Concert Hall on Saturday.

If you didn’t go to the Jazz Concert this past Saturday, you missed out! The Rensselaer Music Association organized a very nice one hour long jazz concert called “Heroes, Heartache, and One-Hit Wonders” in the Experimental Media Performing Arts Center. Despite the cold weather, there was a decent crowd of friends, parents, and members of the RPI community that enjoyed a peaceful, rejuvenating concert!

President of RMA Devin Glenn ’16 led the night off by introducing himself and giving a synopsis of the beautiful music for the night. Conductor Robert Button mentioned how it was going to be a very special night with the appearance of Janice Pendarvis, a well acclaimed singer known for R&B, pop, jazz, reggae, rock and avant-garde music. She has worked with a bunch of different groups and artists, including The Rolling Stones and David Bowie.

The first group to come out on stage was the 8th Street Swing Band, as conducted by Joseph Bonville. They played two one-hit wonders, then went into playing “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams. I very much enjoyed it because it is in one of my favorite movies, Cheaper by the Dozen. Hearing it live just made it that much better! Then, Janice Pendarvis was welcomed onto the stage for the first time for the night, singing “Summertime” by George Gershwin. When I first heard her voice, I must say, I was blown away; with the live music in the back and the amazing acoustics within EMPAC, this song was amazing!

After four pieces, the Contemporary Jazz Ensemble was next to perform. One song was “Mr. Big Stuff” by Jean Knight, which got the whole audience tapping their feet to the beat! Janice sang along with a few songs of this ensemble but also the Concert Jazz Orchestra. Both these groups were conducted by Robert Button. The first piece on the agenda for the Orchestra was “The Horse” by Cliff Nobles; to this day, no one knows why this famous song, from 1968, was titled “The Horse,” but many bands play it today. Next up was Fontella Bass’ “Rescue Me,” which I realized is from another great movie, Sister Act. The last song of the wonderful night was a classic from 1966 titled, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,” by Jimmy Ruffin. This song was a nice finishing touch as Janice and all three of the performing groups received a standing ovation afterwards.

Overall, this show was fantastic. I suggest all RPI students go to at least one concert in the near future hosted by RMA or any musical group related to RPI. I’m sure you won’t regret it! Just look for signs around campus, online at http://events.rpi.edu/, ask your friends, or even check through upcoming Facebook events. I can’t wait to see another RPI jazz group perform again!

mentioned how it was going to be a very special night with the appearance of Janice Pendarvis, a well acclaimed singer known for R&B, pop, jazz, reggae, rock and avant-garde music. She has worked with a bunch of different groups and artists, including The Rolling Stones and David Bowie.

The first group to come out on stage was the 8th Street Swing Band, as conducted by Joseph Bonville. They played two one-hit wonders then went into playing Classical Gas by Mason Williams, which I very much enjoyed because it is in one of my favorite movies Cheaper by the Dozen. Hearing it live just made it that much better! Then Janice Pendarvis was welcomed onto the stage for the first time for the night, singing Summertime by George Gershwin. When I first heard her voice, I must say, I was blown away, with the live music in the back and the amazing acoustics within EMPAC this song was amazing!

After four pieces, the Contemporary Jazz Ensemble was next to perform. One song was Mr. Big Stuff by Jean Knight which got the whole audience tapping their feet to the beat! Janice sang along with a few songs of this ensemble but also the Concert Jazz Orchestra. Both these groups were conducted by Robert Button. The first piece on the agenda for the Orchestra was The Horse by Cliff Nobles; to this day, no one knows why this famous song, from 1968, was titled “The Horse” but many bands play it today. Next up was Fontella Bass’ Rescue Me, which I realized is from another great movie, Sister Act. The last song of the wonderful night was a classic from 1966 titled What Becomes of the Broken Hearted by Jimmy Ruffin. This song was a nice finishing touch as Janice and all three of the performing groups received a standing ovation afterwards.

Overall, this show was fantastic. I suggest all RPI students go to at least one concert in the near future hosted by RMA or any musical related to RPI. I’m sure you won’t regret it! Just look for signs around campus, online at events.rpi.edu, ask your friends, or even check through upcoming Facebook events. I can’t wait to see another RPI jazz group perform again!

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Swimming finishes successful season

In Springfield, Massachusetts, three divers from the RPI swimming and diving team competed at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III Northeast-North diving regional championship last weekend. Junior diver Maggie Cullather placed ninth out of 27 in the 3-meter diving competition, finishing with a total of 427.5 points. Junior Maddie Miller finished 12th in the 3-meter event with a total of 418.1 points. The women’s 3-meter was won by Maura Sticco-Ivins of Wellesley College. Lastly, senior diver Miguel Hummel ended up in 12th place in a 20-person one-meter diving field. After 11 dives, Hummel compiled a total score of 405.9 points (the winning score was 533.3).

The regionals brought an end to an impressive swimming and diving season. The men’s squad went 5-2 in team meets, while the women’s squad finished with a record of 6-1. On the weekend of December 5, both men’s and women’s swimming and diving finished second out of nine teams at the Liberty League Championships in Rochester, N.Y.

The New York State Championships took place on the days of February 18–21 in Webster, N.Y. and featured 16 teams from all around the state. For the women, freshman Danielle Sauve won the 500-meter freestyle event with a time of 4:57.93. The time set a record for the New York championships. In addition, she also finished second in the 100-meter freestyle with a time of 52.67.

Freshman Shanny Lin also won, taking home the title in the 200-meter butterfly and breaking the RPI record with a time of 2:03.37.

The relay team of Lin, freshmen Michaela Yamashita and Jessica Sauve, and sophomore Siena Sara set an RPI school record with a time of 1:49.24. Then, the 400 free relay team of Danielle Sauve, Yamashita, Lin, and freshman Erin Kane set another Rensselaer record by touching the wall at 3:33.37 to finish in fourth place.

Later, in the 200 breaststroke, Sara finished in third, Jessica Sauve finished in fifth, and senior Ellen Tomljanovic placed eighth.

In the women’s 3-meter diving competition, Miller placed second with a final score of 469.7 points while Cullather finished in fifth with a score of 436.2 points. In the 1-meter competition, Miller finished fourth with 444.1 points and Cullather finished in fifth with 439.8 points.

For the men, senior Adam Kalish finished fifth in the 50 freestyle race, with a time of 21.22; fourth in the 100 fly, with an RPI record of 50.22; and fifth in the 200 butterfly, with a time of 1:53.48.

Hummel finished in fifth place in the 1-meter diving competition, with a total of 469.35 points. Later, he finished fourth in the 3-meter diving completion with 520.65 points.

In the men’s 200 medley relay, Kalish, juniors Brian Polo and AJ Schick, and sophomore Richard Dong teamed up for a third place time of 1:34.37. Then, on February 19, the team of Kalish, Dong, Schick, and freshman Spencer Marquardt finished sixth in the 200 free relay with a time of 1:25.72, while Kalish, Dong, Schick, and senior Colin Lenhoff finished the 400 medley relay with a fifth-place time of 3:30.38.

In the 400 individual medley, Polo nabbed seventh place and senior Michael Rizzo took eighth with times of 4:14.72 and 4:17.06, respectively.

On the third day of the competition, junior David Connor finished the 100 breaststroke in sixth place with a time of 58.65. His teammates Polo and Dong also finished the race in the top ten.

Lastly, in the 200-meter backstroke, Lenhoff finished in seventh with a time of 1:54.07 and junior David Gardiner placed eighth with a time of 1:56.18.

When the last events concluded, Rensselaer’s women had finished in fourth place, while the men placed third overall.

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Value of leadership skills

Hello, Rensselaer. With this week’s edition of the Top Hat, I would like to take a moment to talk to current and aspiring student leaders about planning for the future, whether within the Rensselaer Union, outside in the general RPI community, or beyond our campus as we enter the real world.

Having the opportunity to hold a leadership position is a great thing at RPI—taking it and doing something meaningful and long lasting is even greater. Already at Rensselaer, students have enormous opportunity to make a tangible impact—the challenge is in taking that opportunity and making the best of it. In my time as Grand Marshal, I’ve learned a few things about leadership and absolutely loved this community; I’ve seen student senators and leaders put their hearts into accomplishing great things. As April approaches and GM Week rolls around, the time comes for me to prepare to move on, and share a little of what I’ve learned.

Being a leader, whether Grand Marshal, President of the Union, or any of the other myriad of students who contribute to campus in so many ways, is about knowing your purpose and nurturing a vision for the future—and exposing that vision to every possible challenge thrown your way. This sort of vision isn’t something you develop overnight, and it’s not something you can forge on your own. Having a clear idea of what you want to accomplish is critical to leaving a strong legacy, and the vision comes from hard work and from careful listening to your stakeholders as well as your critics. As Kenneth Blanchard said, “none of us are as smart alone as we all are together.” You will partner with whomever you work alongside in your club or team, so nurturing their good ideas as you form your purpose, together, will make you all the stronger.

For me, the time has come to start looking forward, to recognize and embrace what I’ve learned. Entering into our final two months, I’m finding this to be an extraordinary experience. The goal now is to finish strong, and to prepare to apply those skills to the rest of my life, and to help shepherd in the next leaders who will begin to use their vision—and their purpose—for the good of this amazing community.

Elections will be starting soon, with the GM Week 2015 Handbook up for a vote in the Senate this Monday. For any students who are interested in running for a position in Student Government: while I cannot endorse or support any prospective candidate, I would be happy to share all of my insights and go over your ideas. To anyone considering pursuing the role of Grand Marshal or President of the Union or to those who may decide to run for Senate positions, now is the time to begin thinking: What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to run on? What do you want to do and accomplish if you succeed and are elected? Think about these things so that if you choose to go for a position, you stand on firm ground, ready to move forward with confidence and purpose.

As a brief update on the Union Constitution, last Thursday the Union Constitution Committee’s first proposed amendment—General Changes and Disambiguation—was quickly approved for a student body vote during GM Week 2015. Amendments 2 and 3 were postponed following a desire for more internal feedback and conversation with the public. As a result, I have called an extra meeting on Monday, March 9 in addition to its general meetings on Thursday, March 5 and Thursday, March 12 to ensure that the Senate can stay up to speed with its regular business, while giving all amendments the thorough discussion they need. If you have any questions about the upcoming elections or the Constitution amendment process, find me in my office Mondays and Thursdays from 11 am to 2 pm.

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Indie game reborn; harder than before

ISAAC FIGHTS to stay alive in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth , a remake of the original game. The new version adds difficulty and new gameplay to the old playing style.

I don’t think I’ve ever played a video game like The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. I’ve played similar roguelikes, such as Faster Than Light, but I’ve come to realize that The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is near perfect. For those that don’t know, roguelikes are a genre of role-playing video games that usually include randomized level generation, randomized item pickups, and most usually, permanent death. Additionally, they require and incentivize multiple runs, unlocking new items, characters, and levels with each successful win. Roguelikes also require a certain length of time to become skillful at the game and even more time to become masterful. However, most games of the genre, including The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, are such that new players can just pickup with no prior experience and still progress far into a run. In my opinion, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is the hallmark of the roguelike genre.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a remake of a game of the same name; it features updated graphics, more characters, items, bosses, and levels, adding hundreds of hours to the original game. However, the plot, inspired by the Bible story of the same name, is still relatively the same. Isaac, a young child, and his mother live in an isolated house on a hill. They both enjoy their lives consisting of Isaac drawing pictures and playing with his toys, while his mother watches religious broadcasting on TV. One day, Isaac’s mother hears a voice from above, telling her that Isaac is corrupted with sin and must be separated from all things evil. She obliges, but then the voice tells her that it questions her faith and demands that she sacrifice Isaac to him. Upon seeing his mother pick up a butcher knife, Isaac pulls away his carpet and jumps down a trapdoor, before his mother enters the room. This is where the game begins.

Rebirth is a top-down dungeon crawler in 2-D, similar to dungeons in The Legend of Zelda series. There are 10 total levels, each with a boss room and a number of rooms increasing per level. Rooms must be cleared before moving on, or the player could use a bomb to force open the doors. In game, the player controls Isaac, and as they are unlocked, other figures from the Bible, such as Magdalene, Cain, and Eve, who are also characterized as children. Each child shoots tears from their eyes, which damage enemies and can be altered by pickups, found in treasure rooms, boss rooms, or devil rooms. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth revolves around item pickups and are vital for getting to the end game.

Certain powerups can either guarantee a won run or ruin the current setup a player may have. Knowing which items to take differentiate a beginner player from advanced players. For example, should the player take charge tear shots or increase damage, while decreasing fire rate? The player could even not take the item at all. The possibilities are endless during each run, and with the item, the D6, Isaac can reroll unfavorable items and turn around a difficult game. A favorite item combination of mine is brimstone with the Ludovico technique (a reference to A Clockwork Orange), which provides a laser barrage and floating tears, respectively. This changes the player’s regular tears to a floating, red circle of powerful lasers. Another favorite is mom’s knife with Loki’s horns (a reference to the Norse god of mischief by the same name), which replaces tears with knives and shoots them in the cardinal directions. The number of interactions between different powerups is near infinite. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.

I found out about this game from a friend right before Winter Break. As soon as I arrived home, I bought and downloaded the game, and now I’ve put over 100 hours in it. The game has hundreds of hours of entertainment, and I never get bored of it. I still become more skillful with every game and find more, new interactions within the game. Though each run is different from the next, the randomly generated seed can be written down and played later, if favorable items are presented within the first few floors.

Overall, this game has everything that I want: a distinct art style, mechanics with a high skill ceiling, and high replay value. A downloadable content release, titled Afterbirth, was announced on February 13, with an unknown release date. It will reportedly add hundreds of hours to total gameplay. And you can bet that, as soon as it comes out, I will be crying my way through the game’s hundreds of rooms.

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GM week around the corner

Hey RPI! As March begins, attention turns to midterms and looking forward to our Spring Break. It also means that our spring sports teams are beginning their seasons and our winter sports teams’ seasons are coming to a close. Our men’s lacrosse team opened last week with a win over State University of New York at Plattsburgh and a close loss in overtime against Keene State. They have two away games this week at Wesleyan University and SUNY Oneonta. Women’s lacrosse begins this week with two games against Williams College and SUNY Oneonta. Men’s tennis went 1-1 last week against The College of New Jersey and Stevens Institute of Technology. Varsity softball will play four games this week against Rutgers University Newark, Salisbury University, SUNY Oswego, and Keystone College. We wish them all the best of luck as they start their seasons.

Last week, our men’s ice hockey team tied Clarkson University and on their Senior Night defeated St. Lawrence University with an awesome penalty shot scored by senior Mark McGowan. They will be back in action this weekend in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Hockey Tournament against Clarkson in a three game series. Women’s indoor track and field placed sixth at the New York state championship meet while the men placed third and both will be competing Friday for the ECAC championship in New York City. Men’s and women’s swimming and diving competed in the NCAA diving regionals with three swimmers qualifying to compete. Last week also marked the last day of work for our athletic director of the last seven years, Jim Knowlton. He is moving on to be the athletic director at the United States Air Force Academy. We thank him for his many years of service and wish him well in his future endeavors.

Last week, the Executive Board passed a motion thanking Mr. Knowlton for his service to RPI as well as heard updates by the Class Council Task Force, Constitution Committee, and Policies Committee. The meeting this past Tuesday will hear proposals by the Senate for a new web page and picnic tables for campus, as well as reviewing banner designs for the 125th anniversary, which kicks off during Grand Marshal Week this April.

March also marks the beginning of campaigning for the next elections which will occur during GM Week in April. If you are interested in running for a position, there will be an election handbook available soon and you can get in contact with the Rules and Elections Committee. If anyone is curious about the roles and responsibility of the President of the Union or of the Executive Board, please feel free to ask me any questions or advice at my office hours on Wednesdays from 8:30–10:30 am or email me at pu@rpi.edu.

Far off in the distance, we also have graduation! I know it seems early to get ready for this, but the RPI Bookstore is having a Grad Fair 2015 event from 10 am–6 pm for anyone graduating in May. You can get information on your graduation status, receive commencement details, learn about Senior Week, check in with the center for career and professional development, and even meet with the Rensselaer Alumni Association. It is also the kickoff for sales for caps and gowns, the 2015 yearbook, graduation invitations, class rings, and diploma frames. Students who attend will also be entered to win great prizes like a 16 GB iPad air, $50 RPI Bookstore gift card, or a diploma frame.

Have a wonderful week! As always, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to stop by my office or send me an email.

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Ten ways to smooth out the transition from college to the professional world

You have worked hard for the past four years and you are getting close to graduation. Now what? While you could be going through an emotional roller-coaster, it is time to collect yourself and think about what happens next. Can you control it? Will things happen as they did when you transitioned from high school to college? Maybe it is a similar situation, but are you better prepared? You know how to do laundry, how to make food for yourself (somewhat), when to go to classes, when to study, how to live with roommates. Above all, you have learned to survive in an environment without any adult supervision.

Here are ten steps to make your transition much smoother:

1. Personal professional statement: You will often meet experienced senior managers who ask “tell me about yourself.” Rather than searching for words, prepare a response ahead of time, describing what your natural talents are and how you can productively apply those to your current job.

2. Social networking: Understand the difference between personal (Facebook) and professional (LinkedIn) social networks. Utilize and leverage these appropriately. Remember written text on internet may live forever, so think twice about what and where you write.

3. Hygiene and dress code: We all judge each other based on our first impressions, so looking clean and dressing appropriately for the job should never be ignored—especially when you are just starting out.

4. Challenging assignments: When given the opportunity, be bold and sign-up for projects that may be a stretch for you. Getting exposed to challenging projects at a younger age will expand your thinking and capabilities, which almost always leads to greater responsibility and rewards.

5. Be bold and adventurous: Join a team of entrepreneurs who are exploring new ways to conduct business in your field of interest. Take a chance now; you have your whole life to play it safe.

6. Job security: In a typical organization, 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people; strive to be part of the 20 percent elite group, and you will never have to worry about your job. Employers know who does the quality work and will work hard to keep you employed.

7. Listen and be a team player: Even though college may have given you limited team-building projects, professional work is all about teams collaborating together. If you become a patient listener and a team player, you will never fail. More importantly, when some key team members leave to start a new venture, they will include you.

8. Know the boundaries: There is a fine line between professional time and fun time, knowing when to switch between the two is important but takes time to master. Being aware of this is a good start.

9. Email Etiquette: Professional email writing is both an art and a science, and it takes time to perfect it. Knowing email etiquette early in your career is critical to your professional success.

10. Know the HR rulebook: Ask your manager or others about key HR rules to follow.

-Sandeep Sharma ‘88G

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Student SENATE

Activity Fee and UAR approved

Senators vote to pass the Student Activity Fee with a 21-3-3 . This is after the Student Activity Fee wasn’t approved last week.

The Senate meeting last Thursday was a direct follow up of the previous week’s two meetings. First off, there was a temporary motion to have a formal queue for that night’s meeting, meaning one can speak for an unlimited time, rather than just two opportunities of a maximum of 10 minutes each. The motion passed with a vote of 19-3-0, ensuring all senators had a chance to voice their opinion during the feisty meeting.

The second motion of the evening as proposed by graduate council member Jenn Church and seconded by Paul Illori ’17 was to reconsider the Student Activity Fee and the individual club fees, which passed 17-4-1. The majority of the discussion following that motion consisted of inquiries into why individual Senators had chosen to vote “no” on the previous week’s motion. Michael Han ’16 asked why people were still denying the raise in the Student Activity Fee. Jessica Krajewski ’16 mentioned that she had abstained during the first vote around because of the lack of numbers in front of her to base her decision on. President of the Union Erin Amarello ’15 stated there are funds for travel contingences and emergencies, and it is very possible to transfer funds whenever necessary. Shortly thereafter, Justin Etzine ’18 proposed a motion to end discussion, which did not pass with a vote of 9-13-1.

Keegan Caraway ’18 brought up how many senators in the room have already made up their minds, and those that still vote “no” to the raise in the Student Activity Fee either do not want to pay more or lost their budget to a club. Graduate council member Spencer Scott stated “[a graduate student] can’t get a fair share” of the Student Activity Fee, implying his strong decision of continuing to deny the motion. Edward Qiao ’18 voted “no” to represent his friends that aren’t in clubs and don’t participate in many events, since the activity fee raise must represent all students. Some of the funds from the fee are distributed to buildings, such as the Mueller Center and the Union itself, which “rounds the college experience,” according to Andrew Sudano ’17. Amarello included that it is difficult to fulfill every single student’s desires and that “the senators and the Union are trying their best” to accommodate everyone; the graduate students currently have the pub, since they are 21 and older, and she encourages graduates to come to her and discuss what new programs they will like to see while she is still in office as President of the Union for the next month and a half. Graduate student James Gambino stated that his biggest concern dealing with his rejection vote is that he would like to see the Activity Fee balance with teaching assistants’ and research assistants’ salaries. Shoshana Rubinstein ’15 mentioned that it is difficult to distribute money due to the large number of places it goes.

The final vote of the Student Activity Fee occurred, which consisted of graduates voting first and going down class years until all freshmen have voted. The motion to raise the Student Activity Fee passed with a vote of 21-3-3. Additionally, the Union Annual Report for the fiscal year of 2016 passed and was made public upon the closure of that senate meeting. The meeting then shifted to Rindone’s presentation on Residence Hall Recommendations, according to the Student Senate survey that was released last semester to Rensselaer students. “Low cost but impactful changes” will go into effect as soon as possible from Residence Life and improvements will “prioritize core amenities over entertainment luxuries,” according to Rindone. The meeting came to a close after a few additional senator comments on the residence hall changes and the weekly committee updates.

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Staff Editorial:

A smile a day

Every day is filled with monotony. Get up, go to class, eat, do homework, and go to sleep. Maybe you don’t have classes or, let’s be honest, maybe you don’t study. But you do something like this every day. It’s like clockwork. Maybe some days you smile or laugh, but mostly, you’re just bored and tired. Tired of Data Structures labs. Tired of Sodexo food. Tired of the freezing winds.

But those are the days when you catch a sliver of light. Do you know what one of the greatest feelings in the world is? When you pass by someone on your way to class and they make eye contact and smile. You don’t know what kind of a day they’ve had. It could have been a day full of classes and labs. Or maybe they just found out their little niece said her first word. Or it could be something as simple as having “drink hot chocolate” on their to-do list. Every smile, no matter how small it may be, makes someone else a bit happier. So smile. Smile when you’re headed to your 8 am. Smile when you’re just chillin’ with friends. Smile when you might not want to. If someone else is happy, then you should be, too.

Life is rough sometimes. But why go through it hating every second or wanting things to go faster than need be? Enjoy what you have, no matter how terrible it may seem. So next time you’re braving that bitterly cold air outdoors or circling the top floor of the Union, smile. Smile at someone you don’t know. Smile at someone you do. When you smile, it’ll make someone else’s day, and if they smile back, it might just make yours.

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Fashion Show

BSA Fashion Show wows with unique designs

Student models walk the runway; designs impress with multiple styles, highlight identity

A MODEL WALKS the runway at the BSA Fashion Show on Saturday, February 21. The show featured four designer lines and a line of clothing chosen by the models themselves.

RPI may have had some rather nasty weather on Saturday, February 21, but those who braved it to get to the McNeil Room at around 7:30 pm were rewarded with a very enjoyable evening. The Black Student Alliance hosted its annual fashion show this weekend, which is the main event in their celebration of Black History Month.

The director of the show and co-director, Sabrina Duongtran ’16 and Ricardo Johnson ’17 respectively, opened the show and Johnson highlighted the show’s part in the BSA’s mission to promote a positive presence of African Americans on campus. The show kicked off with a video of one of the models smiling, dancing, and generally being goofy, while looking directly into the camera. It was a quirky and rather charming way to begin. This was followed by the first of five lines to be showcased that evening. The first collection consisted of sleek black pieces with a lot of sky high heels and bold red lips. There were dresses, black pants paired with tank tops and tops with flirty cut-aways. Though the cuts varied, the outfits shared the characteristics of being simple, but with a sexy sophistication. Overall, the mood of the section was like a slightly edgier version of the classic little black dress. The models added their own little flairs at the end of the catwalk, and they should be commended for making these subtly provocative but not too much.

There was a slight wait between this section and the next. This was a downside of the show for me, and there was a significant wait between all sections that could have been filled with some short performances or something other than the music that had been playing for the last section. After the wait, a collection by Mario and Lee was displayed. It had a very sporty feel. Almost all the clothes were black and white and there was a lot of play with texture and prints. There were hoodies and puffed out velvet sleeves, and leather pants in the ensemble. There was one pop of color in this section; a pink velvet top with blue paisley print tights that made its appearance right as the music changed with quite a nice effect. The highlight of this collection was a lovely paisley print black and white dress with cut outs in the side and back. This was modeled beautifully by the director, Duongtran, who—in my opinion—stole the show with her professional looking strut. In a short chat after the show, designer Lionel Nichols (Lee) explained that he had been trying to express “art without color,” which is why all the clothes were black and white. He also shared that that some of the clothes meant to be displayed had been forgotten in the packing between this show and another that he had showed at last week. As a result, they had ended up styling some clothes they had designed for guys for the female models. As far as I was concerned, they certainly pulled this off well.

The next section, in stark contrast with what preceded it, featured bold, fun colors. It began with an outfit consisting of a colorful top and red leather pants and continued in that vein with lots of reds and pinks. Designer B. Chris also included neons, such as neon yellow and orange dresses. Overall, there was a fun, playful feel to this collection. Following this was perhaps the most memorable section of the night: opening with a tribal song, Laura’s collection had a very earthy, hippy feel to it, and got more eccentric as it progressed. A wrap around traditional African skirt, a knitted poncho-like garment in mustard and orange with one sleeve, and a pair of pink boxers with a teddy bear shaped pocket purse applied onto them were only some of the pieces to leave an impression. There were eccentric accessories including a necklace with a toadstool pendant and one with what seemed to be a dart. There was about an equal amount of high heels and bare feet sported by the models in this section. It should be said that the models did a very good job in this section. Apart from carrying off some very eccentric looks with grace, they added their own little touches and flair to this section, including a little shake at the end of the catwalk that was a crowd favorite. A particular model should be appreciated for a very smooth recovery from a little stumble at the end of the catwalk. This designer was certainly a favorite among the models, Ariel Effotte ’15 said that she really liked Laura’s collection and “felt very comfortable in those clothes.” Brianna Blessitt ’17, said this was her favorite section, and that she enjoyed the “very tribal, ethnic feel.” She also shared that the collection “is from a very fun, impromptu designer. She could see something lying around and just make clothes out of it if she likes it.”

Next up was a very urban, provocative collection that played with all kinds of cuts and silhouettes. This section also featured some interesting accessories, most remarkable of which was what seemed to be a paddle carried by one of the male models. Some of the more provocative pieces included a lovely sheer, black, and gold dress, a dress with a trailing black chiffon train, and a basically see through black chiffon top. Unless I am mistaken, I believe I heard a jaw or two drop in the audience behind me. It had quite the effect, which, I believe, was well carried off.

The final collection, by Christina Walthall had a very dreamlike, fantasy character. The music was slow and dreamy and the clothes were very flowy. It was a rather eclectic section with chiffon, silks, velvet, and many white flowing dresses with accessories like parasols and long, elegant gloves which lent to the dreamy feel.

For the finale, the models walked down the catwalk in pairs. They did a great job throughout the show and especially at the end, adding their own touches and flair to the entire event and delivering a great show. It concluded with a candid video compilation of the models practicing and messing around, having fun during rehearsals. A lot certainly went into the event. In a short chat after the show, Duongtran, the director, said that work on the show and practicing by the models had been going on since last November. She also revealed the inspiration for the show’s theme “Identify.” One of the models last year was uncomfortable with the outfit assigned to her. This year, Duongtran tried to make sure that the models got their choice in what they wore. She believes that fashion should really be a way to express and own who you are. Effotte certainly appreciated this, saying “I really liked that section where they just let the models do their thing.” It was also clearly a fulfilling experience for the models. Effotte, who has participated in the show in all of her four years at RPI, and was the director last year, said that she has “seen girls grow doing this show.” Blessitt also commented on how wonderful a feeling it was to feel like she was part of “creating something with the models and designers.” While I liked the idea behind the show’s theme, I wish they had emphasized and talked about it more.

Overall, I enjoyed the show, and I, for one, believe fashion events are definitely refreshing and welcome at RPI. I’m looking forward to next year’s show.

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Women’s hockey victorious on Senior Night

JUNIOR FORWARD ALEXA GRUSCHOW TAKES the puck toward the Colgate net in a 5-3 victory over the Raiders on Senior Night at Houston Field House.

This past weekend, the women’s hockey team broke even at the Houston Field House in Troy, NY, losing Friday night to Cornell University 4-1 and winning Saturday night 5-3 against Colgate University, making it a successful senior night.

On Friday night, the Engineers won the first faceoff of the game and held strong defense for the first period. After several shots from the Cornell Big Red Bears, the Engineers stepped up at last on a power play late in the first period off of a tripping penalty; junior forward Alexa Gruschow took the powerful shot to pick up her 12th goal of the season.

The second period started off with offense from the Big Red Bears, who took four shots wide on net; however, the fourth was rebounded, passed, then redirected into the net by Jillian Saulnier past RPI senior goaltender Brianna Piper at 3:28. Five minutes later, the Big Red Bears scored again, making it a one point lead going into the third.

The Big Red Bears picked up two power play opportunities in the third period, and were able to take advantage of both scoring three and half minutes apart, leaving the Engineers disappointed by a 4-1 loss, despite having 24 shots on goal, one more than Cornell had.

The next night, the Engineers did not mess around, scoring four times in a row, which led them to a 5-3 victory against Colgate. Solid passing around the Colgate net from senior captains and forwards Ali Svoboda and Taylor Mahoney were able to set sophomore defenseman Hannah Behounek up, allowing her to lift the puck top shelf past Colgate goaltender Brittney Brooks, raising the spirit of the crowd. The Engineers did not stop there; two minutes after a penalty kill, the Engineers picked up their own power play, having freshman forward Shayna Tomlinson tip the puck in, scoring her fifth of season, after nearly a month and a half since her last goal on January 6 against Princeton University. Tomlinson had six shots on goal and an assist for the totality of the night.

Five minutes into the second period, the goals kept coming for the Engineers, as freshman forward Whitney Renn had a take away in the Colgate zone, passing to Mahoney to give her her fifth of the season, too. The Engineers were leading 3-0 when they scored yet again 2:26 later as Svoboda had the one-timer goal from the circle opposite stick side of Brooks. At 11:04, the Raiders gained a power play from a five-minute major on cross-checking from Gruschow, as Taylor Craig shot through the pads of RPI senior goaltender Kelly O’Brien. The Raiders scored twice more a minute apart on this power play opportunity.

Gruschow redeemed herself 3:34 into the third period, scoring on a 5-on-3 power play off of a deflection with assists from Tomlinson and senior defenseman Kathryn Schilter, her third of the night. The Engineers celebrated senior night with a final 5-3 win. The Engineers ended their season 7-23-4 overall, and 5-16-1 in ECAC league play.

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