For years, decades even, Troy has tried to get Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students into the city to spend some time and, more importantly, spend some money.
For as long, students and the college itself resisted every effort, preferring to stay on the hill and look down The Approach as if it were a nose at the lowly “townies” below. The residents of Troy, not known to overlook a slight, looked back up The Approach at the “rich, spoiled kids” who thought they were too good to rub elbows with those who chose “Troylet” as their home rather than a pit stop enroute to bigger and better things – even the moon. It’s a vicious cycle.
But all amour has a chink, and all rules have exceptions. RPI, directly or indirectly, invested millions into the old Best Western and the Proctors Theater and Chasan buildings. And Trojans have an indescribable yet indisputable endearing quality about them – which is why I spent more awake time in the Collar City than any other place on earth for more than 15 years – and more students are slowly starting to hang out downtown.
The latest incident though is perhaps the most clear cut example of the RPI student body assimilating itself into Collar City ways.
According to The Rensselaer Polytechnic, the campus newspaper, five members of student government were caught on tape ripping down signs advocating for changes to the Rensselaer Union Constitution that were on the ballot as a referendum. In all, according to the newspaper, some 1,000 signs were ripped down campus wide.
I won’t go into what the Constitutional changes were but safe to say they were controversial enough within the RPI cocoon to motivate those in favor of the changes to start ripping down posters against them. In the end, the university Judicial Board ruled the five candidates involved cannot hold elected or appointed positions and must complete 15 hours of community service. Furthermore, according to The Poly, “all election results for Constitution amendments and alumni vice president, secretary, and treasurer are null and void.”
Obviously, Troy is wearing off on RPI and I’m not just talking about the most recent voter fraud scandal that saw eight indictments and three trials. Messing around with elections goes back to at least 1893 and Bat Shea, a story turned into a book by Troy author Jack Casey that includes ballot stuffing and murder. While I don’t think anyone has committed murder over an election since, I know there have been variations of ballot stuffing, outright forgeries and even dead people voting by absentee – which isn’t that far from the truth but illegal just the same.
Maybe President Shirley Ann Jackson would serve the student body well to have Troy political operatives like Bob Mirch, Tom Connolly, Mark Streb, Tom Mathews, Bill McInerney, John Sweeney, Rich Crist, Steve Bogess, Ed McDonough, Bill Powers or Tom Wade participate in her next Colloquy instead of someone like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. They may not have the nationwide stature of a Scalia, but they can teach the political neophytes on the hill some practical lessons on how to mess with an election the proper way – or at least not get in too much trouble if the envelope is pushed a bit too far.