April 13, 2015
To: The Rensselaer Community
From: David Brond, Vice President for Strategic Communications and External Relations
Re: Screening of the film American Sniper on campus
Date: April 13, 2015
On Wednesday, April 8, the UPAC Cinema, a subcommittee of the Rensselaer Union Programs and Activities Committee, and the Muslim Students Association, both student-led and student-run clubs on the Rensselaer Troy campus, decided to postpone a screening of the film American Sniper, scheduled for Friday, April 10. To create an opportunity for intellectual discourse on campus, the two organizations agreed that the screening should go on only if discussion and clarification on the topic of the film could be conducted. A joint statement by these two student organizations was distributed on Thursday, April 9 through multiple social media channels to the Rensselaer student body.
Two facts have often been overlooked with regard to this decision, especially by erroneous media reports that compare this action to screenings of the film at other venues across the country. First, this decision was made solely by members of the UPAC Cinema Club, after careful consideration of a request by the RPI Muslim Students Association. Members of the Rensselaer Union administration facilitated this process by advising students with multiple options and assisting in the implementation of the students' chosen decision. Second, UPAC has decided that they will show American Sniper during this spring semester, at a date to be announced. The showing will be coupled with an optional educational forum for all members of the Rensselaer campus community to participate in an intellectual discourse about the film and current world events.
On behalf of President Shirley Ann Jackson and the Rensselaer administration, we applaud this decision, and this decision-making process. At its core, The New Polytechnic at Rensselaer is guided by societal concerns and ethics. The action and quick response exemplifies The New Polytechnic and serves to showcase an environment that ensures the right conditions are in place for each individual to achieve his or her full potential.
For 125 years, the Rensselaer Union has been a model of a student-run organization, and one of the few in the United States. Today it is home to more than 200 clubs, sports, and organizations, creating opportunities for students to learn invaluable skills. The decision made by these two student organizations reflects the diverse population of our Rensselaer community and the principles of respect, coexistence, and inclusion. Being sensitive to student concerns in a responsible way is commendable. Furthermore, the Institute has always supported students' freedom of expression, which is articulated in the Rensselaer Handbook of Rights and Responsibilities. Students came together, collaborated, and problem-solved in order to address a multifaceted challenge. Through their action and response, these students demonstrated thoughtful leadership, an awareness of multicultural issues, and appreciation for a global perspective on a very timely and important social issue.