Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Security Officers Oust Flyer-Distributing Students from Sidewalk, Citing Eminent Domain

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

On February 24, 2018, two RPI students stood on a sidewalk outside a hockey game, passing out buttons and literature in support of the “Renew Rensselaer” campaign, an alumni effort closely related to the student-driven “Save the Union” campaign. After security guards told the students they had to leave, the students argued that the sidewalk was public property, not the private property of RPI. The security guards told the students that they had power to remove them under “eminent domain.” RPI’s lawyer later claimed, without proof, that RPI owns the sidewalk (not that it matters, as RPI promises its students freedom of expression on or off campus), that RPI policy requires students to get permission before expressing themselves on campus (it doesn’t), and that RPI’s goal is to have a “controlled environment” lest students advocate for political candidates or the NRA.  

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    March 26, 2018

    In February, students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute stood on a sidewalk outside of a hockey game, passing out buttons and flyers critical of the administration — until private security guards stopped them, claiming they had “eminent domain” over what the students reasonably believed to be a public sidewalk. In a town hall last week (full video here, and relevant video here), RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson asked the Institute’s public relations director and lawyer to respond to the controversy. After conceding that an officer was wrong to use the term “eminent domain” — which made no sense at all — […]

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