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Destler Dodge

“RIT firmly believes that among its goals and responsibilities are the free pursuit of truth and intellectual and moral development of its students... Because the rights of free speech and lawful assembly are fundamental to the democratic process and the academic process, RIT supports the rights of all its members freely to express their views and to protest against actions and opinions with which they disagree, using peaceful and lawful means of dissent.” – RIT Governance Policy C11.0

Policy C11.0 acknowledges that RIT’s responsibility as an institution of higher education is to provide access to the truth and intellectual development, including the right to protest. In general society, the right to protest is backed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. RIT, however, as a private university is not held to the fullest extent of the First Amendment which ensures that the government does not suppress and individual’s rights to free speech. Public schools are protected by public laws like the First Amendment but private schools are not governmentally funded and are not technically protected in the same manner.

An entity granting First Amendment rights should not be considered noteworthy but in a world full of government monitoring and spying it’s nice to have it in writing. RIT is an institution committed to innovation; by assuring its community that it has the right to express itself, it incubates ideas and opinions. The affordance of the right to protest does however have a few guidelines, none of which I view to be unreasonable. The guidelines mainly say that protests cannot be disruptive to campus life or violent in nature. There is also a clause prohibiting the “… seizure or attempt to seize [of] a physical facility…” I cannot imagine this situation arising, but it’s comforting to know that the authors could think creatively.

Similar to the student rights defined in Policy C11.0, Reporter Magazine is granted First Amendment rights in its by-laws. Namely, Reporter is not censored by the university. The magazine’s by-laws explicitly state that “…Reporter Magazine shall retain all of the rights of a free press.”

This affordance of rights is equally important as the right for students to freely demonstrate and express themselves. Reporter’s content is centralized on the RIT and greater Rochester community. As a news publication, it is charged with ensuring that its readership is well informed. Because it is afforded the right of a free press Reporter can fulfill its duty and present the reader with all opinions, not only those of the institute.

The sign of maturity in an institution is being able to listen to its community and adjust accordingly. RIT does just that; it allows students multiple venues to be heard even if it is not in line with the views of the university. So go ahead RIT, get your protest on.