Communications from VP Konwerski
I want to encourage you to vote on Tuesday, March 28 or Wednesday, March 29 in the Rensselaer Union, Room 3418 from 2:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
We worked to protect your right to a free, fair vote and it's important that you decide for yourself so PLEASE VOTE. Your vote in this confidential election matters for those who may become an RA after you and the outcome of this election will be based on a majority of those who actually vote, so every vote matters.
We are about a week out from the RA union election (March 28-29, 2 p.m.-6 p.m.) and I wanted to share a few thoughts with you as you contemplate casting your vote. Through your critically important peer-to-peer interactions and mentoring, you play an important role in the lives of our residential students. I was an RA for three years and have supported RAs and thousands of students over the years, so I understand the unique needs and challenges that face this role, and I am deeply grateful to you for all that you do for our campus community as an RPI Resident Assistant.
Last week, RPI received a letter from a group of Resident Assistants (RAs) who are seeking to form a union. The letter requested that RPI voluntarily recognize union representation of these students and also raised several issues about their work as RAs. As student leaders at Rensselaer, our RAs are valued and respected members of our community.
Our response points out that voluntary recognition would bypass a fair, free and confidential election for all RAs. Of course, RPI will respect the process and the ultimate decision that is made regarding a union.
We have developed a plan to address the RA concerns regarding compensation as part of our proposed FY24 budget.
We remain committed to ensuring our RAs, and all of our students, have the best possible experience at RPI.
Peter Konwerski, Ed. D.
Vice President for Student Life
Frequently Asked Questions
RAs at RPI
Resident Assistants are students who are selected to help foster a community of learners within RPI’s student housing facilities. The Resident Assistant (RA) position plays an integral role within the Office of Student Living and Learning. Students selected to assume this important leadership role will have a focused responsibility for creating connections among Rensselaer students living within the Residential Commons.
This number can vary from year to year depending upon class size. This academic year we have about 80 RAs.
Compensation models vary from university to university. We currently provide free single room housing along with a stipend, and a new plan has been added to the FY24 budget for improved competitiveness. Housing rates change from year to year and current rates are available online.
During his fall listening tour, the issue of RA compensation was shared with President Schmidt. We reviewed the compensation plan as part of the annual budgeting process that began in the fall of 2022 and have included a new compensation plan in the FY24 budget. This new compensation plan will begin to be rolled out for the 2023-2024 academic year.
Establishing and implementing a change such as a new compensation plan may, on the surface, sound simple but it is not. It requires many internal reviews and planning, and occurs within our established budget planning process. Once proposed budgets are developed, they are subject to a formal approval process, which occurs annually in March. We would typically communicate these decisions once the full budget is approved, but the Institute has recently approved communication of the plan as we recruit RAs for upcoming semesters.
Financial aid starts with eligibility. Eligibility for financial aid varies by the unique circumstances of individual students and is determined through a federal process that is governed by strict federal rules. When we apply financial aid, we are required to follow those guidelines.
A union is an outside third party that seeks to represent a group of employees with the intent to improve their pay, benefits, and working conditions. A federal agency called the National Labor Relations Board oversees the process for an outside labor union to represent a group of employees.
The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency that was created by Congress in 1935 to oversee labor groups and safeguard employee rights to organize. The NLRB is governed by the National Labor Relations Act, which was also established by Congress in 1935.
If the RAs decide to file a request with the NLRB for an election, the NLRB will follow its process and rules to conduct an election. The participants who would vote in the election are those that the NLRB determines to be part of an appropriate “bargaining unit.”
The outcome of the election will be determined based on a majority vote. If the majority vote is in favor of a union, then the NLRB will certify the union as the bargaining representative for those individuals, and RPI will be required to bargain collectively with the union on matters related to the RAs’ compensation, benefits, and working conditions.
This largely depends on the result of the collective bargaining process. Often, unions will seek to require union membership within the elected group, even if a specific individual does not agree with the notion of a union. The union would then represent the entire group related to their wages, benefits, and working conditions. Those individuals may need to pay dues to the union.
RA Request for Representation
As explained in the response to the RAs’ request for representation, we believe it is very important that all opinions on the matter are considered, and that all RAs have a voice through an election process supervised by the federal agency that handles these matters, the NLRB.
We began reviewing compensation during the annual budgeting process, which began in the fall of 2022 and have included an improved, competitive compensation plan in the FY24 budget. The RAs raised additional concerns that we are eager to find ways to address. Federal rules governing unionization efforts do not permit negotiation of terms and conditions during a union organizing campaign. Therefore, we should not engage in negotiating over terms and conditions while the process is at this stage.