Can eminent domain be used by universities to censor students? Well, apparently an event took place in February this year where an institute censored student speech by citing eminent domain law with an interpretation of the same. The gist of the situation being the fact students protesting on a public place was cited as wrong.
What went down
The incident happened in a New york college where 2 students were asked to leave a public space as they were handing out fliers and badges which are said to have cited information condemning their University.
This condemnation was an initiative of this campaign called the ‘Renew Rensselaer’ which seeks to highlight the corruption and abuse of power in the administration section of the University.
The students protested that they were rightfully protesting on a public property whereas, the school cites the students were protesting on the property controlled by the school and it had the right to do so due to eminent domain.
The school received backlash for the decision from various organizations, one of them out of these was FIRE – a foundation that works for individual rights to students. The foundation had sent out 3 letters to the school condemning their way of tackling the students and their issues which could have been handled in a more mature and peaceful manner.
The foundation also cited that including and taking the plea of Eminent domain was not right on the part of the school. Eminent domain gives power to federal governments and not private institutes like these that can requisition a public space calling it their own. They had sent out a 4th letter to the school lately.
What eminent domain stands for
Eminent domain as defined earlier, is a power solely in the hands of the government or its related entities / third parties. Eminent domain in the US, according to wikipedia is, “the power of a state or the federal government to take private property for public use while requiring “just” compensation to be given to the original owner.”
What the school had to say
One of the spokesperson from the school involved in this incident spoke on how the school wanted to end the protest. No answered were given regarding the questions raised on school’s interpretation of the eminent domain. The spokesperson justified the removal of students by citing that they had failed to gain prior authorization. Where she cited the student handbook section called ‘Use of Institute Buildings and Facilities’ – the segment covers private property. The school spokesperson stated that groups wishing to promote an event or a cause should work it through the school authorities – it could be the Deal or the location supervisors for permission.
But the contradicting part is that the property in question is not private, but a public property from where the students were evicted.
The condemnation of the Rensselaer is not new it seems as the students have been protesting against the administration for sometime. While on one hand the university claims to guarantee not ‘impeding or obstructing students in exercising their fundamental rights as citizens’.
The event has highlighted how eminent domain should be carefully dealt with and if you or anyone is facing condemnation under the eminent domain law austria, then you should get in touch with the appropriate expert legal help regarding eminent domain.