Campus Alert: Free speech on trial

April 30, 2007

Free speech is on trial today at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

This afternoon, the editors of “The Primary Source,” a conservative student publication, will go before the school’s student judiciary panel to answer charges leveled against the paper by other students.

The charges at the disciplinary hearing include “harassment” and “breach of community standards.” The actual “crimes”? Satirical articles published in TPS in the past few months—specifically, a Christmas carol parody lampooning race-based admissions policies (“O Come All Ye Black Folk”) and an Islamic Awareness Week article focusing on the religion’s fundamentalist fringe (“The seven nations in the world that punish homosexuality with death all have fundamentalist Muslim governments.”)

Potential sanctions include the official dissolution of the paper.

Whether one agrees with the content of these articles, they are unquestionably clear examples of core political speech.

Tufts, which advertises itself in its student handbook as “an open campus committed to the free exchange of ideas,” should know better. You can bet that parents and students wouldn’t be as willing to fork over Tufts’ hefty tuition each semester (more than $45,000 per year, including housing) if they knew that once enrolled, they could be punished for voicing their political beliefs.

Instead of bringing “harassment” charges—which a real court would quickly throw out—students offended by TPS’ content should just not read it. Or, better still, start their own paper.

Tufts should honor its promises to students and cancel today’s hearing.

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Schools: Tufts University Cases: Tufts University: Conservative Student Journal Found Guilty of Harassment