Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Location: Troy, New York
Website: http://www.rpi.edu
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 2nd Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.

  • Mohammed Cartoon Controversy: FIRE Response to Intimidation and Newspaper Disputes

    February 22, 2006

    As a result of worldwide controversy regarding caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, first published in a Danish newspaper, free speech was being openly disregarded on American college campuses. In the weeks following the printing of the cartoon, students, professors, and student publications not only reprinted the controversial cartoons but even created their own satirical cartoons depicting Mohammed. Chilling of speech in relation to the cartoon was found at Century College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and New York University, amongst others.

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Red Light Policies

  • Student Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: June 10, 2015

    Sexual Harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: … Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with work performance or participation in an academic program, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work, living or learning environment.

    Sexual Misconduct means any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including any conduct or act of a sexual nature perpetrated against an individual without their Consent. … Rensselaer encourages reporting of all Sexual Misconduct. Sexual Misconduct includes but is not limited to:

    • Intimate Partner Violence,
    • Sexual Assault,
    • Sexual Harassment, and
    • Stalking.

    The list of sanctions provided are guidelines and may be implemented for violations of the Policy. Any one or more sanctions may be imposed to a Respondent who is found responsible for any Sexual Misconduct policy violation(s). Sanctions are assessed in response to specific violation(s) and any prior disciplinary history of the Respondent. The list of sanctions include but are not limited to incidents stated below.

    Section 1

    Examples include but are not limited to: unwelcome religious, race, gender, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression slurs; unwelcome jokes with sexual content; sexually-based gestures; unwelcome text messages with sexual content; “sexting;” sexual innuendo; suggestive comments; insults; humor and jokes about sex or gender specific traits; sexual propositions; suggestive or insulting sounds; leering/staring; whistling; and obscene gestures.

    a. Service Hours: A set number of work hours the Respondent must complete. The Case Management Team will determine the nature of the work to be performed. Generally, service hours are conducted on campus.

    b. Educational Program/Project: Programs and activities designed to help the Respondent become more aware of Institute policies and help the Respondent understand the inappropriateness of their conduct, including, but not limited to, participation in an educational program or completion of an online program.

    c. Referral for Counseling: A referral for an assessment with an appropriately trained therapist and a mandate to follow any recommendations resulting from the counseling.

    d. Loss of Privileges: Denial of specific privilege(s) as defined by the Case Management Team for a defined period of time. Privileges include, but are not limited to, participation in extra-curricular activities and events such as social events, intercollegiate athletics, intramural programs, student organizations, and student government.

    e. Restricted Access: Conditions which specifically dictate and limit the Respondent’s presence on campus and/or participation in Institute-sponsored activities. The restrictions will be clearly defined and may include, but are not limited to, presence in certain buildings or locations on campus.

    f. Removal of Offending Cause: Requirement to remove the item which was the subject of the Complaint.

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  • Policy on Electronic Citizenship

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: June 10, 2015

    No one may, under any circumstances, use Rensselaer’s computer systems or networks to libel, slander, or harass any other person.

    Computer Harassment includes, but is not limited to, using Rensselaer’s computer systems or networks: (1) to annoy, harass, terrify, intimidate, threaten, offend or bother another person (for example, by conveying abusive, profane, defamatory or offensive messages, obscene language, pictures, or other materials, or threats of bodily harm); (2) to contact another person repeatedly to annoy, harass, or bother, whether or not any actual message is communicated, and/or where no purpose of legitimate communication exists, and where the recipient has expressed a desire for the communication to cease; (3) to contact another person repeatedly regarding a matter for which one does not have a legal right to communicate, once the recipient has expressed a desire for such communication to cease; (4) to disrupt or damage the academic, research, administrative, or related pursuits of another; (5) to invade or threaten to invade the privacy, academic or otherwise, of another.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Rules for Maintenance of Public Order

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: June 10, 2015

    No person or persons shall use, in public, language or gestures which are unreasonably abusive or obscene.

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  • Sign Policy for Residence Halls and Apartments

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: June 10, 2015

    Signs must not contain anything that maligns any person or group as determined by Residence Life.

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  • Student Handbook: Rules for Maintenance of Public Order

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: June 10, 2015

    Only peaceful demonstrations are appropriate in an academic community and the Trustees are confident that no member or group of the Institute community will go beyond the bounds set by these regulations. In order to maintain the safety and to safeguard the interests of all members of the Institute community, any group or individual planning a demonstration must submit an Application For Approval of Peaceful Demonstration to the Dean of Students Office at least seven (7) days prior to the proposed demonstration date and include its proposed location and the object of the intended protest, or other purpose. If a situation emerges for which a seven day notice is neither appropriate nor practical, the Dean of Students shall exercise reasonable discretion by reviewing the application to reasonably assure student safety and to safeguard the interests of all members of the Rensselaer community.

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  • Student Handbook: Sign Policy

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: June 10, 2015

    This policy was developed to regulate the style, content, and posting of signs and posters as a means of reducing the litter and visual clutter on campus.

    The Institute reserves the right to remove signs deemed to be graphically inappropriate, profane, libelous, in unsightly condition, or outdated information.

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Green Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Rules for Maintenance of Public Order

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: June 10, 2015

    Academic freedom is essential to a university community. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are essential to academic freedom.

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  • Student Handbook: Student Bill of Rights

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: June 10, 2015

    The student is a citizen of the nation at large, and the Institute shall not impede or obstruct students in the exercise of their fundamental rights as citizens.

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  • On campus, students fight to be right

    May 1, 2005

    SARATOGA SPRINGS — Last month at Skidmore College, a group of students planned a “Coming Out Day.” The students weren’t celebrating their sexuality, but their conservativeness. They belonged to the Young Republican Assembly. While the group wound up changing the name of the event because some students took offense, their decision to tag such a right-wing event with a moniker often associated with the left was no coincidence. The conservative movement on college campuses today is characterized by its adoption of concepts that the left has relied on for years. Now, when young Republicans speak out, they call for tolerance, […]

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  • Columbia’s Due Process Cont’d.

    May 21, 2001

    The Wall Street Journal

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  • This Time, We’re Failing to Talk About ‘American Sniper’

    April 20, 2015

    Every so often, a cultural touchstone descends on college campuses, with the effect of putting campus discourse under the microscope for all to see. The results, frequently, are discouraging. Clint Eastwood’s blockbuster film American Sniper, adapted from deceased Navy sniper Chris Kyle’s memoir, is the latest exhibit. That American Sniper is a controversial movie is not a controversial observation. It was one of the most remarked-upon movies of last year, and the fevered debate over its portrayals of the war in Iraq, of the Iraqi people (and, by extension, Arabs and the Arab world), and of Kyle himself was difficult […]

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  • FIRE Awaits Supreme Court Ruling on Content Neutrality

    March 18, 2015

    About five years ago, when I was a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), I tried to start a student group for nontheistic students (atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and so forth) called the Secular Student Alliance (SSA). I quickly discovered that RPI had a policy of denying funding to political and religious student groups (of which they considered SSA one), despite funding all kinds of other student groups. While RPI is a private institution and thus not legally bound by the First Amendment, RPI’s written policies state that freedom of speech is “essential” to the university and that “the […]

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