RPI ‘wins’ Lifetime Censorship Award

Rensselaer County

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TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has received the Lifetime Censorship Award, an undignified distinction granted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

FIRE selected RPI for the ignoble achievement “for its unashamed, years-long record of censoring its critics and utter disinterest in protecting students’ rights.”

The tipping point came when the school decided to prohibit putting up flyers on campus, a move that FIRE sees as violating students’ rights to free speech.

According to FIRE, RPI consistently destroy messages that are critical of its administration or policies. FIRE also alleges that whenever students ask permission to hold demonstrations—a rule set forth by the school—RPI denies them. RPI also contracts local police to guard and videotape students so administrators can later identify peaceful demonstrators.

The administration charges students who hand out flyers in dorms with solicitation, FIRE insists. Security also stops students handing out flyers on the sidewalk to tell them they cannot do so without prior approval.

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, RPI enforces such policies when they aren’t even on the books.

“Rensselaer embraces free speech and freedom of expression, and we are committed to maintaining a safe campus environment that enables students to be as productive as possible in their education and research activities,” says Richie Hunter, RPI’s vice president for strategic communications and external relations.

RPI is only the second school to receive the Lifetime Censorship Award. Chicago’s DePaul University received the honor in 2019.

This year’s ranking of the 10 worst colleges for free speech in the country includes Syracuse University, Harvard University, and Middlebury College in Vermont.

FIRE is a non-government agency focused on defending the free speech, freedom of association, and due process rights of students and faculty members at U.S. colleges and universities.


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