Several different institutions have combined over the years to form the current 15,500-student university that is RIT. As Sara Paduano ’09 reports, the school “dates all the way back to 1829 with the creation of the Athenaeum, an association devoted to ‘the cultivation and promotion of literature, science and the arts.’ Made up of a meeting room and a small reading room, the venue offered public lectures and debates as well as a substantial library for locals devoted to culture. In 1847 the Athenaeum merged with the Mechanics Literary Association.
In 1885 the Mechanics Institute was established as a school to provide technical training to workers in industry, with funding initially provided by the citizens of Rochester. Instruction was free for the first year. In 1886, the program expanded to include fine arts classes. In 1891, the Rochester Athenaeum and the Mechanics Institute merged, forming a cultural and technical institute that provided even broader instruction. In 1910, Carleton Gibson became the first president of the Institute and created the cooperative education program in 1916, one that remains an important aspect of the university today.
Over the next couple decades, different schools were founded within the Institute, including the School of Photography and the School of Print Media. In 1940, classes were held all day and night to train students for jobs in the defense industry, and in 1942 evening classes opened for women to assist in the war effort.
In 1944, the Institute formally adopted the name Rochester Institute of Technology. In 1968 the Henrietta campus officially opened. During the move there in 1966, RIT was chosen to be home for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf under a charter by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
By 1980, enrollment was over 15,000 students and by 1991, the technology on the campus was advanced enough to begin offering complete degrees online. In 1997, the Institute expanded overseas, opening The American College of Management and Technology in Dubrovnik, Republic of Croatia—a collaborative effort between RIT College of Applied Science and Technology and Velecillste Dubovnikú, the Polytechnic of Dubrovnik.” There are now three RIT-operated schools in Europe and one in the United Arab Emirates which will open this year.
RIT’s nickname is “Brick City” because of its uniform, austere buildings, some of which make a wind tunnel out of the Quarter Mile, a path that students must take to get from their dorms to class. Flowering trees in the spring help break up the monotony, but in general the 1,300-acre campus is not known for its aesthetics. Students still find plenty of places to congregate, though.
A coffee shop on the first floor of the library, Java's, sells just about anything you need to give your day a boost in an awesome space with ultra-comfy couches and tables. Many people go there to meet friends, kill time between classes, get coffee before class, or relax and do homework. The interesting paintings on the walls are all student artwork, and the music is good, too.
If you don't feel like sitting inside when the weather is actually nice in Rochester, you can take your drink or bagel and head out to the Infinity Quad, another heavily populated hangout on campus. In early fall and spring, the Infinity Quad becomes a place for people to meet and talk, play Frisbee, set up tables to sell things, and "bench sit" (some people consider this to be one of their classes during the spring).
The Student Life Center and Gordon Field House have five basketball courts, four tennis courts, two tracks and classes in kick-boxing, massage therapy, yoga, spinning. The SLC has a great gym with everything for the devoted body-builder or the cardio-lover, and The Field House is also a popular place for comedians and bands to perform.
On the weekend, the on-campus apartments make a great social space. There are four major complexes - University Commons (UC), Perkins Green (Perkins), Colony Manor (Colony) and Riverknoll - and there is always something going on at one of them. Of course, on some nights there is too much craziness and Public Safety will hang out there too.
RIT is located in Henrietta, NY, a town of under 40,000 just outside the city of Rochester. The University of Rochester and Syracuse University are reasonably nearby, and students find having a car helpful to reach beyond the suburbs.
Many movie theaters, including some independent houses, cost as little as a dollar or are relatively cheap and well worth the experience. There are a great variety of bars and clubs: some more relaxing, some more crazy and rowdy. There are also science museums, vintage clothing and housewares stores, different “mom & pop” shops, and tattoos, piercings, and palm-reading venues. There are also numerous eclectic eateries serving Greek, Mexican, Italian, or British cuisines.
Filling up the quads first thing in the spring: Once everyone comes out of the hibernation after the long winter, there's not a bench or a spot on the grass left open.
Henrietta Hots and Jay's Diner after a long night out with friends: Henrietta Hots is the place to go for the Rochester-famous garbage plates, and Jay's Diner, open twenty-four hours, is a great hangout around early in the mornings.
Cookouts: On a nice night, there isn’t a vacant grill. Frats grill on the Quarter Mile and apartment residents sit out at the picnic tables.
Bonfires in the woods behind University Commons.
The Beer Pong League: "Matches" take place at least once a week, and "stats" are recorded.
Paul Benoit (1976) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
Bob Duffy (1993) is the mayor of Rochester.
Stan Grossfeld (1973) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer.
Matt Hamill (1999) is a deaf mixed martial arts fighter.
The athletic teams at RIT are all Division III, with the exception of Men’s Hockey.
While athletics don't historically have a large presence on campus, the athletic community is gaining in strength and in numbers. There are a total of twenty-four varsity sports offered for men and women and being an athlete on campus is beginning to carry some status. RIT athletes have access to the Gordon Field House like all other students, as well as the advantage of having the resources of the Varsity Weight Room and Training Room at their disposal. The school also offers numerous club sports.
“Recently, the most notable team has been the RIT Men's Hockey Team, which went Division I in 2006. This year, the team made it to the Atlantic Hockey Association semifinals, playing in front of a 3,933-person crowd at Blue Cross Arena against Air Force. School spirit is at its highest at the hockey games, but other sports are working their way up there. Popular teams include Men’s Lacrosse and Men’s Basketball.
“Under the leadership of our new president, Dr. Destler, school spirit has been at its highest. Attendance is up at home games and events. SAAC (the Student Athletic Advisory Committee) plays a large part in the lives of athletes on campus and also promotes school spirit and athletic involvement in the community.
When RIT decided to change its mascot to a Bengal tiger in 1963, the school went so far as to purchase one and name it Spirit. He lived until 1964 and was frequently taken to sports games. The library now houses Spirit’s pelt.
Over the years, RIT has been the first school to create and provide degrees in the fields of Microelectronic Engineering, IT, and Software Engineering.
A satellite campus called “RIT Dubai” will open in the fall of 2008.
60% of the student body lives on-campus, though a housing crunch has freshmen and sophomores often living in triples.
The major dorms on campus are Nathaniel Rochester Hall and Grace Watson, and major housing units other than dorms include Perkins, Colony, Riverknoll, and the beloved UC (University Commons) apartments. Nathaniel Rochester Hall is a popular dorm because it holds “Specialty Housing” floors, including: the all-male floor, which doesn’t help the boys who complain about the lack of girls and has been nicknamed the IHOS (International House of Sausage) floor; the Photo House, which houses photography and non-photo majors alike; the Engineering House; the Unity House (predominantly black students); the Art House; the Computer Science House; and the Business Leaders of Tomorrow.
NRH (Nathaniel Rochester Hall) has a post office on the base level as well as the Corner Store, which provides non-healthy snacks for students who need to go shopping and don’t have a car.
Grace Watson has Honors housing and is attached to Gracie’s, the main eating hall. It has a very nice entrance with large couches and a new flat screen, as well as a coffee shop corner. Campus Safety and Housing Operations are located at Grace Watson.
Perkins and UC apartments are the preferred housing units outside the dorms. Colony is the farthest apartment complex from campus and Riverknoll is the closest, but they are older and some are being knocked down.