To the president of Illinois Tech, Alan W. Cramb:
We are being fooled.
This past Tuesday, October 29 at 8:41 a.m. all students at the Illinois Institute of Technology received the following email:
"To the Students of Illinois Tech:
As you know, we are honored to welcome the Obama Foundation to our campus for its third annual summit today. As a part of our continued partnership with the organization, we are inviting all students to view a livestream of today’s summit at the Obama Foundation website. Two sessions will be streamed, one from 10 a.m.—11:45 a.m. and the other from 3:15 p.m.—5:15 p.m.
Please note that the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Hermann Hall, and the adjacent parking facilities will be closed off by Illinois Tech Public Safety and the Secret Service. Only individuals with credentials will be allowed admittance. We appreciate your cooperation.
Thank you for making our campus a welcoming place for our distinguished guests.
Alan W. Cramb"
There are many things that made me think a lot about our university from this email. The first of all is, since when did we welcome this event? And why are we only invited to watch an online video about this event and we cannot attend it in person? How can it be an honor to have a wealthy guest that visits our facilities, or rather, that occupies a key building of our campus and kicks out all the graduate students in the Institute of Design out of this same building and doesn't invite any of them to attend this important summit? How is it possible that the more than 7,000 students of Illinois Tech are forbidden access to the most modern infrastructure that we have on campus during five entire days even if we pay thousands of dollars per year to maintain these same facilities? Shouldn't we at least be invited to attend and assess in person if such an event was worth the cost? Because from what I saw the Obama Foundation didn't give absolutely anything back to the students. These people didn't even invite us to join their act. They just came here, picked up the best building on campus, closed it off for five days without any previous warning, and kicked all the students out in order to do "their thing" that none of us is either aware or interested in. And if any of us is either aware or interested in this event, then we are not invited.
One of the facts that is less acceptable is that a few of my closest friends here at Illinois Tech, including my roommate, reported having items missing when they came back to their desks. Another thing that I find very incoherent is that during the whole time period, heavy dark curtains were drawn all over the perimeter of the building so that no one outside could see what was going on inside. I personally asked to a worker myself that just came out of the building whether I could go in and whether the former president of the United States of America was coming the next day to our university. She answered "no" to the first question and that "You will have to figure out" to the second one. Some other students in the Institute of Design reported being scared off by private security guards around the area. The surroundings of the Kaplan Institute as well as the building itself were built to help students progress in their educational path and make us feel welcome and excited, which is the opposite experience of what happened these days during the Obama Foundation Summit.
I think that this act was arrogant. The essence of this event is described in the email sent by the president of Illinois Tech to us, and it textually reads: "...The Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Hermann Hall, and the adjacent parking facilities will be closed off by Illinois Tech Public Safety and the Secret Service. Only individuals with credentials will be allowed admittance. We appreciate your cooperation," meaning that not only did they forbid us students of accessing our usual study places, but that the president of Illinois Tech also expects us to understand it as something natural and help him! In exchange for what? In exchange for nothing! Oh, if he at least cancelled our tuition fees for five days (which would amount to at least $500 for each undergraduate student), because why should we pay fees for spaces we cannot use or not even get close to for five days? Also the spaces that are closed off to students are pretty vital to the basic studying functioning of students, which consists of getting on campus (possibly by car), going to Hermann Hall to get assistance from the Academic Resource Center (ARC), and possibly developing some models at the Idea Shop (placed within the Ed Kaplan Institute) that we previously designed. Why should we pay fees if we cannot incur into the normal functioning of places we were entitled to with our money? It doesn't make sense. It is disrespectful to forbid us to enter the basic buildings and facilities that we need to use in order to study, and it is also very insolent to not even invite us to attend the event that alters completely our normal way of working.
The right approach to this would be to ask us students if we want such an event to take place, and inform us of the consequences beforehand. Once this is done the president should submit such an event to a student election and if the majority of the students agrees, then let the event take place. We are the daily users of all university facilities and these buildings have been built with a purpose, as John Rettaliatta described in his own words "Students can achieve their targets in very different circumstances. But having good quality facilities eases the task." Don’t put it harder to Mr. President. The way this event has been handled breaks all the principles upon which this campus has been built. We students cannot be dishonored in such a way. I have seen students that would normally be studying at the Ed Kaplan Institute until late stay at MTCC until 12 a.m., using the small tables in there. I have experienced my roommate having to study at home next to me, without the resources that he usually uses at Kaplan and for which he pays a lot of money. It is very unfair to let a stranger use our facilities for free in detriment of our work and mental energy. This is not right. If someone wants to kick us out of our current working places, that person should justify this very well and offer a deal to us, we cannot be left with empty hands. We must get something back. Either money or an invitation for each student to that event. Something else is just unfair. Because with all due respect, the “distinguished guests” of Illinois Tech are not the members of the Obama Foundation, but the students of this university that work our a---- off day and night and not happy with this. We pay tens of thousands of tuition fees every year. This is, from my point of view, how you make yourself distinguished, not by a fancy name, but by working hard and paying. We should not let others take what we earned in exchange of nothing. This is not “honorable.” I think that people from the Obama Foundation will think that students at Illinois Tech are fools. That they can come and ignore us, reject us, scare us off, play around in our desks without our consent, and even eat a chocolate bar that we may have put in our drawer the day before, unaware of the event that was going on to take place a few hours afterwards. This university should improve a lot on their communication with the students BEFORE things take place. The president and their counselors should ask us well beforehand about the acts that directly impede us to fulfill our main requisite: to study and get our homework done. If some strictly external event such as the visit of Barack and Michelle Obama impedes us from fulfilling this main task, then we should be consulted and a voting should take place so that the majority of the students can decide whether we want to be restricted in order to let an external organization host an event on campus or not. Especially if this organization excludes the students of Illinois Tech from participating in it. This is a thing that I never imagined that could happen. It is like getting kicked out of your working place without previous warning when you have to study for a test that is going to take place soon.
It is rude and indecent.
I think most of the students would like better treatment and at least be invited to ALL events on campus. If someone wants to make an event that excludes Illinois Tech students, then this person can host this event in their place and leave us alone. We students appreciate peace when we are stressed and have to study a lot. I hope the president will understand this as well.