Image 01 Image 03

Cornell University – FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month

Cornell University – FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month

“Elevated Risk & High-Risk Events”

A new policy on student gatherings caught the eye of the free speech defenders at FIRE.

From the FIRE Newsdesk:

June 2021 Speech Code of the Month: Cornell University

As COVID-19 vaccination rates rise across the country and the public health risk of holding large gatherings decreases, colleges will likely be reviewing their events policies for necessary changes over the summer. One school that is past due revisiting its policy is Cornell University, FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for June.

Cornell’s policy on “Elevated Risk & High-Risk Events,” which was around long before the pandemic hit, lists various reasons students must file an “Event Registration Form” with the university in advance.

There are some legitimate reasons why an event organizer might need to give a university notice about a particular event, like when they are planning a march on a street, and traffic will need to be shut down. But take a look at some of the factors from Cornell’s policy:

– 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?

– Has a similar event been characterized as elevated or high risk, or problematic by any media?

– Are there historic reasons why there may be opposition to the event?

– Has there been litigation, including a Supreme Court case, connected to the topics of the event?

That list would allow administrators at Cornell to shut down essentially any event they want by claiming the organizer should’ve submitted an “Event Registration Form.”

Watch the video below:


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


After seeing this past year and a half’s spate of “demonstrations”, I have come to the conclusion that they are generally used to bully rather than inform. “No justice no peace” is a threat. So is “No justice no streets” i.e. streets will be blockaded. This is going on for real in the “National Strike” in the country of Colombia, although the popular enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be there to sustain it, and so it’s turning into guerrilla warfare with the veneer of popular support removed.

Anyway there are non-disruptive ways of conveying information. I wouldn’t want to see repetitive street demonstrations at Cornell the way they are going on in Colombia. They’re meant to intimidate and bully. We might have these rules to thank for the campus not being disrupted by an outbreak of Antifa/BLM demonstrations.

I don’t have a problem with Cornell’s avoidance of the type of events that cause disruptions, and I think the wording is well done. It doesn’t limit legitimate speech at all.

    Ex-Oligarch in reply to artichoke. | June 11, 2021 at 7:04 am

    So, in a nutshell, your theory is that would-be rioters and guerillas would dutifully file the form, prior to rioting? And abide by the university’s decision if Cornell said “no”?

If you have to request a permit weeks in advance to engage in any type of expressive activity, you don’t have freedom of expression. This is especially true if those who control the expression permits can use your answers on the ”please let us speak” form as pretext for denial. For crying out loud, there have been disruptions and litigation because student groups wanted to pass out free pocket Constitutions on campuses. This policy allows the school to require students beg permission to engage in the very activity the Constitution protects as supposedly inviolate. (And yes, I know that Cornell is a supposedly private school, but how much do they receive in the form of government grants every year?)

“When any government or state-aligned media outlet, or university for that matter, undertakes to say to people, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know.” the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how righteous the motives.” – attributed to Robert A. Heinlein (paraphrase)

    artichoke in reply to Idonttweet. | June 10, 2021 at 8:50 pm

    You don’t need a permit to engage in “any type of expressive activity”, just stuff that is high risk — as defined. It says that right in the article.

    Would you put no limits and allow anything at all as long as it’s called expressive activity?

      Idonttweet in reply to artichoke. | June 10, 2021 at 9:35 pm

      Yeah, and they get to determine if your desired activity is “high risk” or not. Which means they get to use that as an excuse to deny your right to speak entirely if they don’t like what you have to say. And don’t give me the “would you put no limits and allow anything” argument. Have you read the First Amendment? The courts have interpreted it to allow reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, but this policy simply allows the university to say “No.”

My alma mater continues breaking my heart. Cornell, what happened to you? Almost all your professors think one way, almost all your campus speakers as well. You will need to change Ezra Cornell’s words to “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study [as long as it conforms to what is consistent with the Woke Left thinking of the moment] ,”

    Susan in reply to Romana. | June 12, 2021 at 12:45 am

    My heart is broken, too. This weekend is my 55th Cornell Reunion; I have attended every one since my graduation in 1966. I never thought I would be so disappointed in my alma mater.