Former FIRE Intern Encourages Reform at Cornell University in Letter to the Editor

By September 24, 2009

2009 FIRE intern John Cetta has an incisive letter to the editor in today’s Cornell Sun responding to an article in yesterday’s Sun, "Panel Explores Free Speech and Religion." John contends that the debate over religious liberty is "far more significant" than a discussion in the campus chapel about abstract freedoms. It has to do with campus-wide policies on free expression and free thought for all students.

Yesterday, The Sun chronicled the dialogue that took place over religious freedom at Cornell. This debate is far more significant and urgent than some friendly academic sparring taking place in Sage Chapel, however. President Skorton recently asked the Codes and Judicial Committee of the University Assembly to consider affording greater protection to freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion in the changes to the Campus Code of Conduct that it proposed last semester. It is reassuring that the President and administration are cognizant of these important issues, even while they deal with the pressing financial strains on the University.

While it is essential that the university president be on board with the idea of changing Cornell’s policies to better respect students’ rights, the proposed changes don’t begin to go far enough. John cites FIRE’s criticism of Cornell and our encouragement of the university to reform its policies:

However, the changes the President requested are but a small silver lining among the problematic provisions of the Code of Conduct and related campus policies. The Sun has covered the fact that outside observers, such as the Foundation for Individual Right in Education, have remonstrated Cornell’s restrictions on freedom [of] speech and association.

John invites Cornell students to take interest in the protection of their rights and engage with the student government and the administration in revising campus policies.

Any students who would like to see even greater protection of their basic freedoms so that Cornell is no longer disparaged for its repressive policies should attend the next U.A. meeting on Sep. 30 at 4:30 p.m. in 316 Day Hall to voice their concerns. U.A. meetings are open to the public and it is imperative that students involve themselves if they wish [to] have greater protection of their rights.

Schools: Cornell University