Official Statement from RPA in Response to RPI’s Decision to Give Justice Scalia an Honorary Degree

Fundamentals

“We are a diverse community comprising a broad array of talents and perspectives. Even as we celebrate this diversity, we are united in pursuit of a common goal: greater prominence as a top-tier world-class technological research university with global reach and global impact.” -The Rensselaer Plan, Section 2: Fundamentals

The following represents the opinion of the Executive Committee and membership of the Rensselaer Pride Alliance (RPA), and this statement will serve as the Pride Alliance’s formal position on and opposition to the decision to award Associate Justice Antonin Scalia an honorary degree at Commencement this May.

A Very Diverse Community

“Today’s ideas will reach maturity and today’s students will be called to lead in a world that is increasingly diverse. The Rensselaer community must be just as diverse, and the Institute must commit to leadership in bringing diversity to science and technology.” -The Rensselaer Plan, Section 7.2: A Very Diverse Community

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a world class university that prides itself on pushing the boundaries of innovation in science and technology. One of the current goals of the Institute, as stated multiple times in the Rensselaer Plan, is to foster greater diversity on campus and in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This goal is admirable for many reasons, most notably because the differing experiences and thought processes of a diverse group of researchers can lead to insights and innovations that would otherwise not be possible.

Despite this stated goal, Rensselaer has not readily achieved a welcoming and diverse campus environment. The ratio of men to women in the student body is among the highest in the country, there are very few racial and ethnic minority students on campus, most students come from similar economic backgrounds, and numerous gender and sexual minority students feel unsupported by the Administration and pressured to remain closeted on campus. Many of these problems are based in perception; for many women, people of color, low-income students, or LGBTQ students Rensselaer is not seen to be a welcoming place.

Many groups and initiatives on campus, including the Pride Alliance, have worked hard to change this image of our campus as unwelcoming to women and minority students. RPA has met with members of the Administration as recently as last month to discuss the ways in which our campus can be a safer and more inclusive space for gender and sexual minority students. During these, and all, interactions with Institute administrators, we have been constantly reassured that Rensselaer values diversity and will be taking steps to improve the status of gender and sexual minority students on campus.

It is for this reason that the Rensselaer Pride Alliance was surprised and disappointed to hear of the decision to honor Antonin G. Scalia at Commencement this year. Justice Scalia is not a scientist, an engineer, or an innovator, and he certainly does not represent the spirit of diversity that the Institute claims to embrace.

Taking Sides in the Culture War

“It is clear from this that the Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed. Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive. The Court views it as “discrimination” which it is the function of our judgments to deter. So imbued is the Court with the law profession’s anti-anti-homosexual culture, that it is seemingly unaware that the attitudes of that culture are not obviously “mainstream”; that in most States what the Court calls “discrimination” against those who engage in homosexual acts is perfectly legal…”

The above quote is taken from the dissent, written by Scalia, in the case of Lawrence v. Texas. Decided in 2003, this case overturned a Texas law criminalizing sodomy, and essentially served to legalize same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults in all 50 States. As is evident in this quote, Justice Scalia felt that ruling against discrimination based on sexual orientation was absurd, stating that “a governing majority’s belief that certain sexual behavior is “immoral and unacceptable” constitutes a rational basis for regulation…” Which is to say, that if a majority of the public believes something or someone is immoral or unacceptable it should be perfectly legal to discriminate against them, even if they are doing no harm to themselves or others. This same logic has been used by others in the past to uphold discrimination against people of color, women, immigrants, and numerous other groups.

There are those who will argue that this is a political matter, and that our opposition to publicly honoring Scalia is a matter of politics that does not belong in a discussion of academic honors. We would like to state, clearly and unequivocally, that this is not the case. Our opposition to the Institute’s decision to grant an honorary degree to Justice Scalia is, in fact, incredibly personal. As lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and allied members of the Rensselaer community we find this decision to be deeply disrespectful and dismissive on a personal level.

In the case of Romer v. Evans, the Court ruled that an amendment to the Colorado State Constitution which would have prohibited the inclusion of sexual orientation in anti-discrimination laws was unconstitutional. In his dissent, Scalia stated that “one could consider certain conduct reprehensible–murder, for example… or cruelty to animals–and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of ‘animus’ at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct…” and argued that discrimination based on this type of “moral disapproval” is perfectly reasonable and should not be outlawed. The knowledge that Rensselaer has decided to honor a man who believes that being gay is comparable to murder, and that it should be legal to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the areas of employment and housing, is incredibly insulting to members of gender and sexual minorities and their allies on campus.

In Summary

The beliefs of Justice Scalia appear to be directly opposed to the goals and values of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as stated in the Rensselaer Plan as well as in the slogan “Why not change the world?” Although this statement has focused on issues relating to sexual orientation, we believe that there is evidence indicating that Justice Scalia routinely fails to acknowledge the ways in which marginalization is upheld and replicated within our society, and that many of his rulings regarding the rights of women and people of color to equal protections under the law reflect this. We feel that the decision to honor a man who has repeatedly expressed his belief that gender and sexual minorities should not be legally protected from discrimination, and who has no strong ties to science, technology or engineering, is incredibly damaging and harmful to the reputation of the Institute, as well as to individual members of the Rensselaer community.

We ask that members of the student body, faculty, and staff of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute stand with us in publicly opposing the decision to honor Associate Justice Antonin Scalia at Commencement. We further ask that the President and Cabinet of the Institute recognize the ways in which this decision tarnishes the reputation of the Institute and reconsider the choice to honor Scalia with a degree this May.

Respectfully,

The Rensselaer Pride Alliance (RPA)
The undersigned organizations have expressed their support for this statement and the opinion of The Rensselaer Pride Alliance:

UU @ RPI

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Fall Charity Drag Show 2011

Time: Friday, November 18 · 7:30pm – 10:30pm

Location: West Hall, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY Directions

Hosted by the infamous Penny Larceny, with special co-host Trixie Starr!

Featuring professional and student drag performers, including:

  • Malissa Capri
  • ReRe Fierce
  • Eva Destruction
  • Anistasia Lovless
  • Isis Vermouth
  • Tess Tickler
  • Dame Destruction
  • Ms. Candy Pants
  • Rod Harding
  • and more…

All proceeds will benefit the youth programs at the Pride Center of the Capital Region.

$5 in advance

$10 at the door

Tickets will be sold on campus for two weeks prior to the show. Student groups may reserve tickets at the advance rate by emailing drag-tix@union.rpi.edu.

There are no age restrictions for attending the show, but parents might want to use discretion with younger children as there may be some mature language and themes.

RSVP on facebook.

Drag Color Poster

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Spirit Day

I support #SpiritDay 10/20/11

Millions of Americans wear purple on Spirit Day as a sign of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and to speak out against bullying. Spirit Day was started in 2010 by teenager Brittany McMillan as a response to the young people who had taken their own lives. Observed annually on October 20, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, media professionals and celebrities wear purple, which symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag. Getting involved is easy — participants are asked to simply “go purple” on October 20 as we work to create a world in which LGBT teens are celebrated and accepted for who they are. Learn more & go purple at www.glaad.org/spiritday.

-GLAAD

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LGBT Videos at RPI Library

Videos of Interest to the LGBT Community

Held by

Rensselaer Libraries

 

The adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the desert   / PolyGram Filmed Entertainment;   Australian Film Finance Corporation presents;   Latent Image/Specific Films production.  Santa Monica, CA : [Distributed by] MGM Home Entertainment, [2000].

 

American fabulous   : [a portrait of Jeffrey Strouth] / produced and directed by Reno Dakota;  written by Jeffrey Strouth.  New York, NY : First Run/Icarus Films, c1992.

 

Andre’s mother   / written by Terrence McNally;  directed by Deborah Reinisch;   produced by Deborah Reinisch and Sarah Green.  Thousand Oaks, CA : Monterey Home Video : Distributed by Monterey Movie Co., [1998].

 

Angels in America   / HBO Films presents an Avenue Pictures production, a Mike Nichols film;  produced by Celia Costas;  screenplay by Tony Kushner;  directed by Mike Nichols.  New York, NY : HBO Video, c2004.

 

Before night falls   / Fineline Features;  Grandview Pictures;  Jon Kilik presents a film by Julian Schnabel.  [United States] : New Line Home Entertainment, [2001], c2000.

 

Before Stonewall : the making of a gay and lesbian community / producers, Robert Rosenberg, John Scagliotti, Greta Schiller.  (New York, NY) : The Cinema Guild   Chicago, IL : Distributed by OutSpoken Productions, (1994).

 

The birdcage   / United Artists Pictures.  Santa Monica, CA : MGM Home Entertainment, c1998.

 

Black is– black ain’t : a personal journey through black identity / Independent Television Service;  Signifyin’ Works;  producer/director, Marlon T. Riggs;  co-producer, Nicole Atkinson;  co-director/editor, Christiane Badgley.  San Francisco, CA : California Newsreel, c2004, 1995.

 

Brüno   / Universal Pictures and Media Rights Capital present a Four by Two and Everyman Pictures production; a Universal release;  produced by Sacha Baron Cohen, Jay Roach, Dan Mazer, Monica Levinson;  screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Dan Mazer & Jeff Schaffer;  directed by Larry Charles.  Universal City, CA : Universal, 2009.

 

The bubble   / Strand Releasing;  Uchovsky-Fox, Metro Communications, Ronen Bel-Tal Films, Feingold Prod. in association with Israel Film Fund, Keshet, Hot, United King Films;  an Eytan Fox film;  screenplay, Gal Uchovsky & Eytan Fox ; producers, Gal Uchovsky, Ronen Bel-Tal, Amir Feingold;  director, Eytan Fox.  [United States] : Strand Releasing Home Video, [2007].

Cecilia Dougherty Videoworks   / by Cecilia Dougherty. Chicago : Video Data Bank, [200?].

 

Chasing Amy   / a View Askew production;  produced by Scott Mosier;  written and directed by Kevin Smith.  Burbank, CA : Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2000.

 

Damned if you don’t   / by Su Friedrich;  direction, cinematography, sound, editing, Su Friedrich .  [New York] : Outcast Films, [2005].

 

Fabulous! : the story of queer cinema / IFC presents;  in association with Netflix;  an Orchard Films production;  produced and directed by Lisa Ades, Lesli Klainberg;  an IFC Original Production.  New Almaden, CA : Wolfe Video, [2006].

 

Fire   / a New Yorker Films release;  Zeitgeist Films;  Trial by Fire Films presents a Deepa Mehta film;  written and directed by Deepa Mehta;  produced by Bobby Bedi, Deepa Mehta. New York : New Yorker Video : Zeitgeist Films, 2000, c1996.

 

The great composers. Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky   / Brilliant Classics presents;   Ciné Qua Non Films;  written by Marie-Christine Letourneux;  produced by Michel Ouellette;  directed by Raymond Saint-Jean.  [Leeuwarden, the Netherlands] : Brilliant Classics, [2007].

 

Greetings from out here   / produced and directed by Ellen Spiro;  co-producer Kate Horsfield;  an OH! Production.  Chicago, Ill. : Distributed by Video Data Bank, c1993.

 

Hide and seek   / written by Su Friedrich and Cathy Nan Quinlan;  produced by Eva Kolodner and Katie Roumel ; directed and edited by Su Friedrich;  produced in association with the Independent Television Service;  Downstream Productions, Inc.  [New York] : Outcast Films, [2005].

 

The homosexuals   / CBS News;  produced by Harry Morgan;  narration written by Mike Wallace, William Peters, Harry Morgan.  Princeton, NJ : Films for the Humanities & Sciences, c2003.

 

Juggling gender : politics, sex and identity / by Tami Gold with Jennifer Miller.  [New York?] : Tamerik Productions, c1992.

 

The kids are all right   / Focus Features and Gilbert Films present;  in association with Saint Aire Productions, Artist International, 10th Hole Productions;  an Antidote Films, Mandalay Vision and Gilbert Films production;  a film by Lisa Cholodenko;  produced by Gary Gilbert … [et al.];  written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg;  directed by Lisa Cholodenko.  Universal City, CA : Universal Studios Home Entertainment, c2010.

 

Kiss of the spider woman   = O beijo da mulher aranha = Beso de la mujer araña / Independent Cinema Restoration Archive;  Sugarloaf Films ; HB Filmes;  written by Leonard Schrader;  produced by David Weisman;  directed by Hector Babenco.  New York, NY : City Lights Pictures, c2008.

 

Lianna   / a Winwood Company production;  produced by Jeffrey Nelson & Maggie Renzi;  written, directed and edited by John Sayles.  Santa Monica, CA : MGM Home Entertainment, c2003.

 

The lost tribe   / Pony Films Pty Ltd/ABC ; directed and filmed by Rachel Landers.  New York, NY : Women Make Movies [distributor], 2005.

 

Milk   / Focus Features presents Axon Films in association with Groundswell Productions;   Jinks/Cohen Company;  produced by Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks, Michael London;  written by Dustin Lance Black;  directed by Gus Van Sant.  Universal City, Calif. : Universal Studios Home Entertainment, c2009.

 

No need to repent: the ballad of Rev. Jan Griesinger / a film by Ann Alter.  Athens, Ohio : Asymmetry Productions   New York, N.Y. : distributed by Women Make Movies, c1989.

 

Non, je ne regrette rien    = No regret / The Fear of Disclosure Project   producer/director, Marlon T. Riggs. Chicago, Ill. : Video Data Bank, c1992.

 

The odds of recovery   / by Su Friedrich   script … by Su Friedrich;  Downstream Productions, Inc.  [New York] : Outcast Films, [2005].

 

The opposite of sex   / Sony Pictures Classics;  Rysher Entertainment presents;  produced by David Kirkpatrick and Michael Besman;  written and directed by Don Roos.  Culver City, CA : Columbia TriStar Home Video, c1998.

 

Queer as folk. Series 1   / a Red production for Channel Four;  co-produced & written by Russell T. Davies ; produced by Nicola Shindler;  directed (episodes 1-4) by Charles McDougall and (episodes 5-8) by Sarah Harding.  London : Video Collection International, 1999.

 

Querelle   / Planet-Film;  Albatros Filmproduktion with Gaumont, S.A.;  produced by Dieter Schidor;  director, Rainer Werner Fassbinder;  screenplay, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Burkhard Driest.  Culver City, Calif. : Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, c2001.

 

Rent   : filmed live on Broadway / produced by Jon Kamen and Justin Wilkes;  directed by Michael John Warren.  Culver City, Calif. : Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, [2009].

 

Silverlake life: the view from here / produced & directed by Tom Joslin and Peter Friedman;  produced in association with Channel Four Television, London, and J.P. Weiner Productions.  [New York, NY] : Docurama : Distributed by New Video, c2003.

 

A single man   / Fade to Black Productions presents;   in association with Depth of Field;   produced by Tom Ford, Chris Weitz, Andrew Miano, Robert Salerno;   written for the screen by Tom Ford, David Scearce;   directed by Tom Ford.  Culver City, CA : Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, c2010.

 

The ties that bind   / by Su Friedrich. [New York] : Outcast Films, [2005].

 

The Times of Harvey Milk   Beverly Hills, CA : Pacific Arts Video, c1986.

 

Trembling before g-d  . [United States] : New Yorker Video, 2003.

 

Tropical malady   / Strand Releasing;  Anna Sanders Films;  TIFA;  Downtown Pictures;  Thoke Moebius Film; Kick the Machine;  producers, Charles de Meaux, Alex Moebius;  writer and director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul.  [United States] : Strand Releasing Home Video, [2005].

 

The videos of Sadie Benning, Volume 2   / by Sadie Benning.  Chicago, Ill. : Video Data Bank, [1992?].

 

Videoworks of Sadie Benning. Volume 3  .  Chicago, Ill. : Video Data Bank, c 1995-1998.

 

The wedding banquet   / The Samuel Goldwyn Company;  Central Motion Pictures presents in association with Good Machine;  an Ang Lee film;  screenplay by Ang Lee, Neil Peng, James Schamus;  produced by Ted Hope, James Schamus, Ang Lee;  directed by Ang Lee.  Santa Monica, CA : Metro Goldwyn Mayer Home Entertainment, 2004.

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