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Another RPI Crackdown on Freedom of Speech
Students prevented from distributing materials promoting change on campus
The fear-inducing message emblazoned across buttons being distributed by students consisted of one word: RENEW.
Surely, campus leaders must have feared the spread of this supposedly contentious message, or they would not have taken such drastic measures.
Students attempted to hand out buttons to fellow students and alumni before Saturday's hockey game. Shortly after beginning, the students were told by public safety officers to "leave campus," even though they were standing on what they understood to be a public sidewalk. Regardless, as students, they had every right to be on campus.
The reason provided to the students was that the area in which they were standing was subject to "eminent domain" during hockey games–a baffling excuse for the removal of the students. At one point, the students even attempted to show the officers a printed copy of tax maps identifying the public sidewalks in the area, but their offer was rebuffed.
Materials distributed alongside the buttons provided information about the fiscal decline of RPI and poor leadership decisions in recent years. They also included concerns about the campus culture and an ongoing crackdown on free speech–concerns that were only enhanced by the administration's latest actions on Saturday. The materials were produced by the student-run Save the Union group.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that campus officials have taken onerous actions to stifle free speech on campus. RPI officials did so before, during, and after an October 2017 protest against the administration's takeover of the Student Union.
Despite the best efforts of the administration on Saturday, students were still able to distribute a significant number of buttons and continue to receive requests for them. Many students and alumni could be seen proudly wearing the buttons at the hockey game and throughout campus during the weekend thereafter to express their desire to address these issues and bring positive change to RPI.