‘Boston Globe’ Covers FIRE’s ‘Sissies’ T-Shirt Case at Yale

By December 28, 2009

Boston Globe journalist Tracy Jan drew attention yesterday to FIRE’s latest case at Yale University. No, not the one where images of Mohammed were censored from a book about those very images. This time, it’s the one where an administrator declared the word "sissies" unacceptable on an anti-Harvard T-shirt prior to the annual Harvard-Yale football game.

Jan quotes Greg’s piece on the case in The Huffington Post:

"A couple of Yale administrators decided that the word ‘sissies’ was too offensive because some people interpreted it as a slur against gay men,” Lukianoff wrote. "This was news to the Yale freshmen who, like me, see ‘sissies’ as being funny primarily because it is such a ridiculous, silly, old-fashioned put-down, somewhere between ‘cad’ and ‘toots’ as far as insults go.”

She also quotes me:

[I] urged [Yale President Richard] Levin to respond by Jan. 12 – marking the Harvard-Yale hockey game – with assurances that Yale will no longer seek to censor "the unmentionable.”

That line about "the unmentionable" comes right out of Yale’s admirable Woodward Report, a document which purports to protect free expression at Yale. As we wrote in our letter to President Levin:

This inspiring document argues that free speech "is a barrier to the tyranny of authoritarian or even majority opinion as to the rightness or wrongness of particular doctrines or thoughts" and argues for "the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable." …

In matters large and small, Yale has taken steps that erode the freedom it once championed, teaching its students that the authorities ultimately decide which expressions are acceptable or unacceptable. This seems the very opposite of a liberal education in a free society.

Thanks to Tracy Jan (and various bloggers including Ian Wood, U.S. News & World Report, and the Yale Alumni Magazine) for drawing attention to this case.

Schools: Yale University Cases: Yale University: Controversial Anti-Harvard T-shirt Quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald