Student services

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The text below is mostly copied from the original handbook.

Student Orientation

Student Orientation exists largely to give its organizers the first crack at meeting and dating the incoming freshmen women. This may seem overly cynical, but it is difficult to find other reasons for the participation of many of its male advisors. On the other hand, it does quite effectively teach accepted students many important things, such as the fact that it will take significant effort to learn the organization of the campus (this is merely an example).

SO, which was once known as Freshman Orientation until the acronym (FO) became too much of a joke, is a good idea in theory, but rather limited in practice. SO Counselors are not allowed to express themselves, unless they carry the same attitudes as the Administration. This results in a lot of holes in the information that can be provided by SO advisors. SO does attempt, with some success, to integrate the incoming freshmen into what should be a studious and ambitious lifestyle at RPI. They try to get people to learn to deal with the roommate(s), the ratio, and classwork, but over the space of a few days, the enormity of the task can be considerably more than the average freshman can endure. After all, they all want to just play during SO.

SO is organized by the Office of the First Year Experience. The FYE website and brouchures show many pictures of happy, smiling students, working on their suntans. After the first year, every student will realize the irony of these pictures, as nobody at RPI can possibly have a suntan, since the sun is almost never out, and most of the students who smile are probably still in their first year, blissfully unaware of the Professional Development requirement.

Office of the Dean of Students

A Dean's Notice is one of the few pieces of mail that will put the fear of transferring to another school into a student. The Dean's office is well known as the "Office of Procrastination" and many people who have dealt with it suggest that you meet their challenge by waiting them out, perhaps beyond graduation.

The Office of Minority Students has been absorbed by the Dean's Office, as well as the Women's Affairs Office. All academic or social problems that concern more than one student are usually delt with by the Office of the Dean of Students.

Learning Center

The Learning Center, located in Sage 2106, was originated as a service by the Office of Minority Students, but after the OMS was absorbed by the Dean of Students Office the service became available for any undergraduate student. In some ways the fact that this was done shortly after the Center was discovered to be working seems to indicate that the Dean of Students Office didn't expect it to succeed. None of the above, however, tells you all that much about the Learning Center. The Learning Center exists to help people improve their grades by giving them assistance and advice concerning studying, classwork, etc. This generally implies tutors, which are paid for by RPI, although advice on how to best get one's work done is useful as well.

Counselling Center

The Counselling Center is located on the third floor of Academy Hall, and is staffed by a very competent and caring group of people under the direction of Dr. Joe Albert. The center tries to assist students in overcoming emotional crises: depressions, suicide attempts, and other shattering mental problems. The Counselling Center is responsible for the mental health of the students at RPI, as opposed to the Infirmary, which deals more with the physical aspects of various illnesses.

Among the problems which Doc Albert is called upon to cure are one very common in the outside world, namely: Why can't I ever get a date?, and one which is peculiar to institutes like RPI, MIT, and Cal Tech, namely: How can I stop being a hacker and start talking to people again?

The center is also in many ways home for certain awkward social groups on campus, such as the Women's Concern group and the Lambda Alliance at RPI. These groups of people meet in the center regularly to discuss aspects of their lifestyles in the attempt to bring them closer to the stability that they all desire. The Women's Group deals with the issues of being a feminist in a mostly male dominated world, while the LAAR concerns itself with gay lifestyles in a heterosexual society. The center offers these groups anonymity from other students that might deal harshly (or violently) with the attitudes of the group members.


The Information and Personal Assistance Center used to be the best source of obscure information on campus. However, more recently it has centered on personal aid for distressed people, and thus the "trivia source" it once was has diminished to almost a whimper. Still, they can usually tell you when and where your test will be, and how many steps there are on the Approach, but don't expect them to know what the Modern Classroom Facility is.

In case you're wondering, the Modern Classroom Facility is the official name of the Communications Center.

The Communications Center is what it was called before it was changed to the Darren Communications Center (DCC)... and before they briefly decided to call it Darren Hall (1998 only)

Chaplain's Office

The Chaplain's Office is located in the Union, room 3514.

Father Gary is probably the most liberal Catholic known to the Church. He had almost completed his training as a Rabbi when he "saw the light," as he would rather we didn't put it, and entered training for the priesthood. As a result, perhaps of this, he doesn't take his own religion as seriously as most priests do; and he can easily understand that, perhaps, your view of how the universe is held together does not exactly follow accepted dogma.

To give you some idea of Father Gary's views on the world would probably take a book the size of Not the Rensselaer Handbook. However, just to give you the very bare bones of his outlook, Father Gary is reigning Meanest Man On Campus; he ran as Pope Obnoxious the First, and claimed responsibility for the two snowstorms which destroyed GM week during his campaign.

Health Services

The Gallagher Memorial Infirmary is one of the most terrifying places to spend a few days known to man. Not that the medical services are poor, or the staff excessively unfriendly, it is just that the place can give you the creeps.

The first thing that most students will see when entering the Infirmary (during "Sick Call") is a waiting room full of people with various ailments, all with thermometers sticking out of their mouths. This is because the long-standing Infirmary policy has been that everyone, but everyone, who goes to the infirmary should have their temperature taken; this even includes salesmen who want to see the doctor. While people are waiting to be looked at seems to be the most convenient time for all involved. Signing in is the most important thing to do upon entering the Infirmary for treatment, for until this is done, no help will be offered (except in dire emergencies, in which case the student will be sent to Samaritan Hospital by Rensselaer Rescue anyway). Then a number must be taken, and a long wait will then begin. The reason for this is simple: a minimal staff.

If the dreaded happens, and one of the doctors decides that you must stay overnight, then the nightmare begins. You must wear a smock, and spend your night in the hideous Infirmary Beds which are designed to keep you in a prone position. The night nurse will all most certainly wake you up, just after you finally fall asleep, to give you some medication; if you are extremely fortunate, it will not be a sleeping pill. You will, however, have your temperature taken every four hours, all night long. If you are not restricted to bed, then you can spend your daytime in the lounge, watching TV (commercial, ack!) or puttering around. Only the truly clever bring homework, and most everyone falls behind, after even a few days. Of course, contact with the outside world is minimal, at best. Visiting hours are slim, and for patients with mono, almost nil.

The most common ailments that put students in overnight are overdrinking and mononucleosis. Alcohol poisoning is a very popular sport at RPI, and during the first couple of weeks, it is very common among freshmen. Apparently, in past years it has quite often happened that freshmen thinking about pledging fraternities have been "over-entertained" by over-enthusiastic houses. The result is usually some poor freshman being pulled out of the gutter and into the hospital. Opinions are mixed as to which of the two places is more dangerous. Since the drinking age in New York has been raised to 21, this problem seems to have been somewhat alleviated. Mono seems to hit twenty or thirty people a week, mostly around test time. The average student's immunities start failing around the time of greatest pressure, and mono is easily picked up in the cramped quarters of the dorms, again, especially amongst freshmen. Mono is almost the death sentence to a student's GPA, for the average stay in the Infirmary is four weeks.

The Infirmary used to be located next to the RPI Playhouse, but was torn down good during the construction of the Biotechnology Center. The Health Center is now located on the third floor of Academy Hall.

Financial Aid

The Financial Aid Office is a perfect example of an organization which follows the rules of diminishing returns. Your aid, that is. In effect, the Financial Aid Office decides the fate of students more soundly and with less mercy than any other part of the student bureaucracies at RPI. The common ground at RPI, supposedly, is academic standing, but in reality, it is economic standing.

There are several tricks that the Aid Office uses to encourage incoming enrollment. Most of these are gifts and grants, which the entering student believes will be available throughout his stay. Little does the prospective student know that these are only for incoming freshmen ... each year's incoming freshmen. In reality, aid does decrease yearly, and as one approaches graduation, it becomes harder to get and keep, even if one's academic standing is excellent.

More students are running out of money these days than are flunking out. The most common pattern seems to be that a student enters thinking that he will be able to get enough aid to survive. He then totally exhausts the family fortunes, driving his entire family into bankruptcy by the end of his sophomore year, or the middle of his junior year. The poor kid then is dragged home, and his parents can never again afford a university eduction for him anywhere.

Impoverished students seem to have the misconception that they will be able to work their way through college. If you are one of these, our only advice to you is to forget it. There aren't enough jobs here in Troy for the resident Trojans; what makes you think they're going to hire you? You're just a knurdy, snot-nosed college kid. The best job you can expect is at about the level of dishwasher at Holmes and Watson. Since Tute demands that you finish up in ten years, and since it will take you four years of work there to accumulate enough money for one semester at RPI, you might as well give up now and not waste time that you could spend at home, collecting Welfare.

Writing Center

The Writing Center is probably one of the least used, yet most helpful student services on campus. Most of RPI's illustrious undergraduates are reasonably competent with literary skills, but still they leave much to be desired when compared to liberal arts colleges. The center, located in Sage 4508, will help students with resumes, report layouts, thesis preparation, and will point students in the direction of writing aids suitable for the assignment being pursued by the bewildered writer.

Career Development Center

The Career Development Center (CDC) helps students who are ready to leave the safety of RPI and enter the RealWorld. They will help you polish your resume, conduct mock interviews, and find a company that might give you a job. Having work experience before you graduate will set you apart from other students, so it is a good idea to get a summer job, or do a co-op for a summer and one semester. The staff are always happy to get you started, so drop by anytime. They have free refreshments in the CDC Cafe! They are located in the DCC second floor, which is, of course, one floor below the floor where you walk in, unless you walked in on the second floor, in which case, there you are. You can't walk in on the first floor, that's underground.