Unconditional expression

On Monday, the Student Senate decided not to pass a motion “to denounce the actions being taken against students in relation to the demonstration on October 13, 2017,” regardless of Institute actions that impose on free speech.

Many senators voiced their opinions that the Senate should not support this motion, since the outcomes of the judicial inquiries haven’t yet been determined. One senator remarked, “If more severe things happen, we should definitely be on board saying we denounce it, but I think maybe we’re jumping up in arms too quickly.” Others expressed that, since there has been no official judicial action in terms of punishment, passing the motion would be “jumping the gun.”

The motion was ultimately postponed indefinitely, with a vote of 19-1-2.

The judicial inquiries referenced in the meeting include allegations of “trespassing,” “failure to comply,” and “violation of a published Rensselaer/student government policy or regulation.” Additionally, nine students have been contacted in order to “discuss their experience at the demonstration,” even though they are not currently the subjects of a judicial inquiry. To The Poly’s knowledge, during the protest, RPI did not instruct demonstrators to leave or indicate that they were violating any regulations set forth in the Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Senators, faced with a situation in which their fellow classmates are victims of the Institute’s active efforts to incriminate student demonstrators, decided that they could not take a stance at this time. However, The Poly believes that the Senate must take action now. Whether or not students end up charged with any of these allegations, the effect of RPI’s actions is the same—chilling speech that is critical of the administration.

The Poly supports unconditional freedom of expression. We urge the Student Senate to not only affirm existing student rights, but also work to actively defend and extend freedom of speech, demonstration, and expression at Rensselaer.