TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Resident Assistants (RA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) are working to form a union in partnership with OPEIU Local 153. A petition signed by more than 75% of RAs is now in the hands of RPI President Martin Schmidt.
According to a spokesperson for the student workers, they are paid 80-90% less than RAs at similar-sized institutions yet are required to work over 20 hours a week overseeing up to 80 students. Further, students claim RPI policies—such as a policy requiring them to call campus police instead of 911—are putting them and their fellow students in dangerous, life-threatening situations.
“RAs are told to specifically and solely call Public Safety (who can take upwards of eight minutes to even respond across the street) and then the Dean on Duty for ALL Medical emergencies and indirectly scolded for mentioning 911,” said Dianna Stuzhuk, who has been an RPI Resident Assistant since summer 2021. “This game of telephone with the lives of students on this campus is outrageous and we must not stand for it.”
Union leaders say that abuse from students has gone unaddressed by the university, leading some RAs to fear for their safety. Students complain that poor communication from the administration makes their jobs more difficult and less safe. There is a rally scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on February 10 at Beman Park in Troy, where RAs and student leaders will speak out about their alleged treatment and the unionization process.
“To deal with issues like this, we are paid $30 every two weeks, and the students receive no consequences as a result of their actions,” noted Nikolas Pepmeyer, an alumni RPI Resident Assistant. “RAs deserve basic and assured safety, respect, and support from the administration.”
“We received this request, and we are currently reviewing the matter,” a spokesperson for RPI said in an emailed statement. “We greatly value and respect our Resident Assistants and will respond to their request in due course.”