The Future of RSE

RSE is at a crossroads AND we need your input. 

Please Take a Moment to Fill Out the Survey on the Future of RSE. 

We are conducting a survey to gather information on possible future states from RSE.  Please take a few moments fill out the survey at following site:


RSE has been struggling since the January 2018 party by the Junior Members resulted in a one-year suspension.  The situation was exacerbated in July 2019 by the live-in advisor who was arrested for illegal activities, resulting in an additional two-year suspension extension, through the summer of 2021.  As a result, there were 10 junior members living in the house this spring.  The COVID-19 virus has necessitated the evacuation of 1501 Sage and RPI for the remainder of the spring semester and through the summer Arch semester. (The ARCH is being offered through eLearning.)

The current Junior Members have worked very hard to make corrections at RSE, including developing a Reinstatement Plan, creating an all new Recruitment Plan, and removing Junior Members from RSE who were not willing to support these changes.  The turmoil has left RSE in a precarious state. 

Starting in the Fall of 2020, assuming the students return to campus, there will be only 9 Junior Members of RSE at RPI – all seniors.  Recent RPI policy does not allow residents in a suspended fraternity.  Unless RPI changes the terms of the suspension, these seniors will not be able to live at 1501 Sage; they will not be able to participate in RPI activities as an organization; and most importantly, they will not be able to recruit new members into RSE. 

Not the same as the “good old days”.  Next year’s seniors were freshman at the time of the original party incident and have done the hard work toward reinstatement.  The transition required also creates an opportunity for all of us to “recreate” RSE into an organization that can endure under the current RPI and national higher education environment.

Undergraduate life at RPI (or at any college in the US) is not the same environment that most of us experienced. Many of you have college age children or grand-children and know that their perspectives are different.  Although the social aspects of college life are important, there is much more focus on academic success, internships, and finding meaningful first jobs.  Unfortunately, you have all read about many tragic incidents at fraternities around the country that highlight the risky situations propagated by the Greek system.  As RPI’s own Greek Life Task Force showed, the Greek system at RPI is no longer viable in its current form.  The value add of the current Greek system is being overshadowed by the liability of having young adults of mixed ages (over and under the drinking age) living together creating a risky environment. In addition, societal norms no longer support a single gender society, nor does it prepare our new members for their future work environments. 

This new reality is evidenced by the fact that fraternities at RPI have been suspended or fully expelled at an increasing rate, for infractions many of you may think are minor from the perspective of the RSE of 15 or 30 or 45 years ago.  Although perspective matters, it isn’t relevant because society and the RPI Administration have been coming down hard on fraternities and eight (28% of the current 29 fraternities) currently are on extended suspensions similar to RSE. RSE has been on and off suspension or probation 5 times for a variety of reasons over the past 20 years.  I know this is not consistent with all of our memories of RSE and life at RPI, but we must accept the fact that the historic model for Greek Life may no longer sustainable at RPI.  RSE must evolve quickly to ensure it fulfills a relevant mission going forward.  If we don’t evolve, the future of RSE is dim.

RSE has a long history at RPI.  RSE was founded by a multi-cultural group of students in January 1866 as the Pi Eta Scientific Society.  The name was changed to The Rensselaer Society of Engineers in 1883 to distance ourselves from the cliquish Greek organizations of the day and to show our closeness with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The RSE clubhouse was expressly designed for RSE by famed architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue in 1924 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  RSE remains the only independent fraternity on the RPI campus and has more members in the RPI Alumni Hall of Fame than any fraternity, including inductees in the most recent two classes.  In addition, The RSE Foundation, Inc. manages two scholarships in concert with RPI and two separately.  Finally, our largest asset is the fact that we have over 800 living Alumni from around the world.  In 2016, we celebrated our 150th Anniversary with a weekend of events attended by Dr. Jackson and over 25% of those 800 alumni.

The fact that we are an independent organization with no affiliation with a national fraternity provides us with both opportunity and challenges.  The challenge is that since we do not have a national organization that can provide resources and support in times like these, we, the Members, must provide that support in both time and funding.  Our opportunity is that we can make changes to RSE without the interference of a national.

So, what do we do about it?  Every organization (especially one that has been around for over 150 years) needs to take a step back from time to time, to look closely at itself and re-evaluate. It is clear the world is changing, and RSE as an organization must get ahead of the curve.  Some Alumni and the Trustees of RSE realize we must formulate a new vision of RSE that can add relevant value to the RSE Junior Members, the RPI community and the Alumni of RSE.  We should evaluate the options for RSE in the context of our educational, social, and community mission, as well as its financial viability. The selected set of options will enable an RSE that is a relevant and essential part of the RPI community.

This is where you come in.  The Trustees have authorized the formation of an Alumni Advisory Committee (AAC) to assist the Trustees in getting feedback from the Alumni stakeholders, as well current students and RPI.  We are looking for Alumni who are interested in helping to identify and develop this more relevant mission.  So far, the initial committee consists of Keith Smith ’79, Dave Hall ’80, Don Thoma ’83, and John Freer ’98.  We are looking for Committee members to provide broad representation of RSE members. All are welcome.

The Committee’s objectives are to obtain feedback from Alumni on a revised model for RSE and propose options for a new strategic plan for RSE.  We have met several times and have outlined the following plan of action:

  1. Alumni Participation: It is essential that we get feedback and input from our Alumni.  We encourage Alumni who have an interest in participating on the Committee (especially from the pre-1970’s alumni, more recent alumni, and current students) to join us.  We expect this will take the form of teleconferences, a possible retreat late this summer, and the Society Meetings in the Fall and Spring.  If you are interested, please contact one of us at the email below.
  2. Alumni Survey: We plan to develop a survey over the next few months to solicit feedback from our Alumni. The survey results will provide key input to the strategic planning process for the future options for RSE.  We encourage you to respond to the survey. We would also appreciate direct feedback from those interested through phone calls with one or more members of the Committee.
  3. 2020 Strategic Retreat: The Trustees and the Committee tentatively plan to hold a retreat late this summer / early fall in Troy (potentially the weekend of August 28-30th, 2020) to review feedback, assess alternatives, and outline a plan moving forward.  We will provide more information regarding the 2020 Strategic Retreat in the near future.  For those interested in attending, please let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  4. Fall 2020 Society and Trustees Meetings: The goal of the Committee is to present a preliminary Strategic Plan for review at the Society and Trustees Meetings in the Fall of 2020 for discussion and adoption.

At a Crossroads.  We have some very important decisions to make over the next year regarding the future of RSE.  The world is evolving, and we have to adapt to stay relevant.  The question in front of us is whether we can evolve the role of RSE at RPI that is meaningful to us, our 800+Alumni Members, and that provides a valuable experience to the new student members. 

To understand this future and to have any chance of success in making it happen will take a considerable amount of effort by us, the Alumni.  The first step is to get your input on the options.  We hope that you will join us in developing a plan for this future.  Please feel free to contact any one of us at the email addresses below.

Thy Strength is My Strength,

Don Thoma ’83  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Keith Smith ’79  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dave Hall ’80  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

John Freer ’98  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.