Columbia University: Hockey Club Punished for ‘Offensive’ Flyer

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Columbia University

After intense public criticism, Columbia University revoked its semester-long suspension of the Men’s Ice Hockey Club. Columbia suspended the club for the semester—effectively canceling the club’s entire season—for posting recruiting flyers containing language that some found offensive. FIRE, along with other groups and individuals both within and outside the university, vociferously opposed Columbia’s attack on free expression. Columbia’s Office of Athletics Communications issued a statement announcing a reduction in the club’s punishment. The club was allowed to engage in league play, but it remained suspended from its preseason and nonleague games. The club was also required to apologize for the flyer, attend “leadership training,” and remains on probation for one year.

  • ‘Pussycat’ spat roars at Columbia

    October 8, 2006

    by Michael O’Keeffe New York Daily News Aren’t people at Ivy League schools supposed to be smart? Columbia University’s administration still doesn’t get it when it comes to the First Amendment. After weeks of criticism, the university lifted the semester-long suspension it imposed on the men’s hockey club over a sophomoric flyer. But the club still will be suspended for two preseason, non-league exhibition games. “Unfortunately, Columbia continues to avoid addressing the underlying free speech concerns about its action,” says Samantha Harris of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonpartisan free speech watchdog. “Columbia’s president strongly endorses freedom […]

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  • FIRE in ‘The New York Times’ on Free Speech at Columbia

    October 23, 2006

    Columbia University’s recent struggles with free speech were covered in the pages of The New York Times on Sunday, with an article concentrating on questions about Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s commitment to free speech on campus. In the article, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff points out that while Bollinger’s public statements endorse free speech, questions remain as to whether Bollinger can “walk the walk” when it comes to issues of free expression on campus. FIRE is continuing its efforts to ensure that Columbia lives up to Bollinger’s promises of freedom of thought and expression with a follow-up letter sent to the […]

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  • Asking Bollinger to ‘Walk the Walk’ in ‘The New York Times’

    October 23, 2006

    An article in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times contrasted Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s reputation as a First Amendment scholar with the rapidly growing perception of Columbia as a campus that stifles students’ fundamental freedoms. The article by Karen Arenson and Tamar Lewin pointed out that Columbia has been involved in four separate free-speech disputes in just the past month: over the language in a hockey club’s flier; the retraction of an invitation to the president of Iran to speak on campus; the use of an ideological litmus test by Teachers College; and the violent melee that shut down […]

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  • A Columbia expert on free speech is accused of speaking too softly

    October 22, 2006

    Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, is a natural in the classroom, guiding undergraduates through the intricacies of the First Amendment. Here he is, pacing, jacketless, playing the role of a politician who wants to ban pornography: Would it be constitutional, he asks his students? How would he justify the limits on free speech? He presses on, as a politician might, proclaiming, “I really think we should eliminate certain viewpoints from society.” Some students start to laugh. “Why don’t we do that?” he asks. There is probably no university chief in America more steeped in issues of free […]

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  • Columbia University and the liberal prude police

    October 10, 2006

    There is a movement on college campuses to create a new right–one so powerful that it even trumps our right to free speech. Born out of college mission statements that wish to promote “understanding” and “tolerance” and “acceptance,” it is the right of every student and administrator to feel perpetually comfortable and never be offended. The latest bastion of sensitivity to uphold this entitlement was Columbia University. According to the Columbia Spectator, the University initially suspended its club ice hockey team for offending the campus community by posting bawdy recruitment flyers. In addition to their suspension, not only was the […]

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  • Stop squelching speech

    October 6, 2006

    A free speech controversy has hit Columbia’s campus-even if some refuse to admit it. On Wednesday, the Office of Athletic Communications released a statement announcing a reduced punishment for the men’s ice hockey club. While we are pleased the club has regained its season, even the remaining punishment is disconcerting. Administrators and student government representatives have eschewed the free speech issue at the heart of the controversy, instead clinging to the club’s procedural errors and disciplinary history as being the reasons behind the punishment. But would the club be facing any punishment if its flyers did not contain the phrase […]

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  • Columbia Reinstates Men’s Hockey Club Following Free Speech Controversy

    October 5, 2006

    NEW YORK, October 5, 2006—After a week of intense public criticism, Columbia University has revoked its semester-long suspension of the Men’s Ice Hockey Club. Late last month, Columbia suspended the club for the semester—effectively canceling the club’s entire season—for posting recruiting flyers containing language that some found offensive. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), along with other groups and individuals both within and outside the university, vociferously opposed Columbia’s attack on free expression. The controversy began when the hockey club posted recruitment flyers around campus that contained the phrase “Stop being a pussy,” in a play on the […]

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  • Columbia hockey club to leave penalty box early

    October 5, 2006

    NEW YORK — The men’s hockey club at Columbia University, suspended for a semester over a flyer featuring a double-entendre, received a reduced penalty Thursday of just two games after a meeting with school officials. Under an agreement between the club and the university, the hockey team will make a written apology to the Columbia community, the school said. In return, the club will be suspended for two preseason, non-league exhibition games; initially, the team was suspended through January 2007. The decision to reduce the disciplinary action followed a meeting Monday between university officials and the school’s director of club […]

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  • Columbia U. in catfight over word of many meanings

    October 4, 2006

    Civil-rights and free-speech groups are assailing Columbia University’s decision to suspend its men’s ice-hockey team, a club sport, because its members used what the Columbia Spectator decorously called “off-color recruitment fliers” in order to attract attention this fall. The fliers, which goaded students to join the team with the words “Don’t be a pussy,” were apparently the latest in a series of violations of athletics-department rules, the newspaper reported. But to the New York Civil Rights Coalition and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the episode was not a case of sophomoric crudity but of stifled speech. In letters […]

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  • Whassup, pussycat? Columbia U. said to back down in dispute with hockey team

    October 4, 2006

    Columbia University has reinstated its men’s hockey team, reversing an earlier decision to suspend the club sport in response to its members’ use of a vulgar word in recruitment fliers, the Columbia Spectator reported today. Citing an anonymous source, the newspaper said the university would punish the team in some other way for using the expression “Don’t be a pussy” as a come-on to Columbia Lions whom the team sought to entice. As a result, the reversal of the decision to suspend, if true, is not quite the unconditional surrender demanded of Columbia by such paladins of free speech as […]

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  • Columbia hockey club suspended over recruitment fliers

    September 29, 2006

    Columbia University has suspended its men’s ice hockey club because of recruiting fliers the team distributed earlier this month that included an off-color expression, students said Friday. The club was informed earlier this week that it had been suspended until January 2007, team president Matthew Glynn said. The club was also put on probation for two years, he said. Glynn confirmed that the team had distributed the fliers with the message: “Don’t be a pussy, play Columbia hockey.” He said he and other team members would meet with athletic directors Monday and would not comment further ahead of the meeting. […]

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  • FIRE Letter to Columbia President Lee Bollinger, September 27, 2006

    September 27, 2006

    September 27, 2006 President Lee C. Bollinger Columbia University Office of the President 202 Low Memorial Library 535 West 116th Street New York, NY 10027 Sent via U.S. Mail and Facsimile (212-854-9973)   Dear President Bollinger: It is with deep regret that FIRE writes to you for the second time in one month regarding the free expression of students at Columbia University. FIRE is gravely concerned about the threat to free speech posed by the Columbia University Athletics Department’s disciplinary action against the Columbia Men’s Ice Hockey Club. We believe the Athletics Department’s decision to suspend the team until January […]

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