Save the Union

Statement on the RPI administration’s latest misuse of Institute policies

by Save the Union

Our academic community is founded on principles of collegiality and open discussion. Since these values form the core of academia, they are protected in the Rensselaer Handbook of Rights and Responsibilities. As a coalition of students, faculty, staff, and alumni that firmly believe in honesty, accountability, and transparency, and who strive to abide by Institute policies at all times, Save the Union celebrates the rights detailed in the Handbook and encourages proper and fair enforcement of its rules, as well. The Institute Sign Policy, detailed in the Handbook, was formed fairly and collaboratively between students and administrative officials. Therefore, we cannot condone its misrepresentation or misuse in the name of any specific agenda.

This morning, Save the Union signs were the target of a campus-wide sign removal. The methodical eradication of our political signs was first noticed before noon; hours later, the RPI community received a nondescript message declaring that ambiguous violations of the sign policy had been observed. While our posters included appropriate contact information, we were never contacted nor made aware of any specific sign policy violation; instead, we were left to deduce the email had been passively directed at our cause.

We believe our removed signs were in full accordance with the Institute Sign Policy. Additionally, these signs are protected by the extended sign policy, as the subject of the signs pertains to an active Student Senate Petition, “Preserve the Student Union.” In the midst of a student election, these issues are of the utmost importance, as we believe the new structure for the Division of Student Life would diminish student control of the Union. Our signs were posted in peaceful and legitimate protest of actions, decisions, and plans made by high-level administrators, including Dr. Jackson and Dr. Ross. No signs contained any content that was graphically inappropriate, profane, libelous, or unsightly, and their targeted removal suggests an effort to consciously suppress open and honest disagreement.

This incident is the latest in a clear and evident pattern of the Jackson administration taking action against opposing voices to intentionally limit the right of free expression. Just last spring, her administration employed similar tactics by denying the student body its right to hold a peaceful demonstration. Later that semester, it further silenced free speech by coordinating the systematic removal of Save the Union signs posted in full compliance with Institute Sign Policy. While it may be easy to point fingers, we must remember that Acting Dean of Students Cary Dresher is only the messenger. While Dresher certainly acted in an official capacity for each of these controversial decisions, he encountered no opposition from the upper administration. Such public lack of opposition leaves one to ponder if these oppressive actions were not approved or directed by Dr. Jackson herself.

If we are to strengthen our community, it is imperative that all parties respect our fundamental principles and ideals. Fittingly, today we celebrate Constitution Day, a holiday celebrating the foundation of the fundamental set of principles by which our nation is governed. As we reflect on the liberties we enjoy from governmental adherence to the United States Constitution, especially the First Amendment, we implore the Jackson administration to support freedom of expression within our RPI community.