Email to Engineering Department from Engineering Dean Kent Fuchs

By on October 23, 2008

———- Forwarded message ———-

From: W. Kent Fuchs <Engineering_Dean@cornell.edu>

Date: Thu, Oct 23, 2008 at 4:24 PM
Subject: Message from the Dean
To: “All Engineering Faculty, Staff and Students” <engineering_dean@cornell.edu>

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

Some of you may have heard about an incident that occurred on the
Engineering Quad earlier this week. I’m writing to make you aware of the
facts of the situation.

On Wednesday morning, student members of the Cornell Coalition for Life
installed a series of posters along a sidewalk in the center of the quad. A
staff member in the college saw the signs, and was concerned that proper
approvals had not been received because we typically only have signage
related to Engineering activities on the quad.   She removed the posters and
together with the students went to her office.  An ensuing discussion
involving members of the CCFL, the Cornell Police, and the college
administration, revealed that the organization had gone through proper
channels to obtain university permission for the posting. The college
administration apologized to CCFL for the inconvenience, and their signs
were immediately returned and re-posted.

A news release is now circulating that suggests the removal of the signs was
the result of a disagreement with the sign content and was an effort to
stifle freedom of speech.  The release also implies that we withheld
permission to repost the signs.  These implications are not true.
While we are very sorry that the student group was inconvenienced while we
checked on approvals, the question was entirely one of permissions and
approvals.  Permission to repost was granted within minutes of confirming
that the students had received approval to post the signs.

However, this incident does suggest that we need clearer and well
communicated guidelines on the use of quad for posting and displays.  We
will work with our colleagues at the university level to examine our
guidelines, both formal and informal, and we will clarify our official
policy and how it will be enforced.

As a community of individuals, we will always have differing ideas and
opinions; I would ask that, as a community of scholars, we discuss those
differences in an environment of mutual respect and courtesy.

Sincerely,

Kent Fuchs
Dean of Engineering

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Schools: Cornell University Cases: Cornell University: Student Group’s Sign Display Removed from Engineering Quad