Ivy League school's wishy-washy speech policy under scrutiny

Wednesday, June 16, 2021
 | 
Bob Kellogg (OneNewsNow.com)

Cornell UniversityCornell University is in the news over a controversial policy that a group says forces students to "jump through hoops" just to hold a campus event.

The Ivy League school claims it is concerned about "high-risk" events on campus – so, the university's policy requires students to fill out an "Event Registration Form" in advance of an event. Confusion surrounding that requirement was brought to the attention of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is expressing concern over some of the factors behind the form.

"… When you take a look at the criteria, pretty much every single type of protest or demonstration would qualify as 'high risk,'" explains Laura Beltz, FIRE's senior program officer for policy reform. "So, they force Cornell students to jump through hoops before conducting any sort of event on campus."

Among the questions on the form are:

  • Has a similar event caused any form of disruption at Cornell in the past?
  • Has a similar event caused any form of disruption on another campus?
  • Are there historic reasons why there may be opposition to the event?

FIRE explains that Cornell is a private school, and thus isn't bound by the First Amendment – which would guarantee students the right to protest without a permit. But the inconsistency of university policy when it comes to free speech is problematic, says Beltz.

Beltz

"In one policy, they say you don't need a permit to get out and protest. But then you have this policy that says you do need a permit if it falls under any of these broad categories," she tells One News Now. "Cornell needs to make up its mind."

According to FIRE, approval of high-risk event applications can take as long as four weeks to process.

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