Harvard Censors Student Groups because of Party’s Name

By on June 5, 2008

As described in FIRE’s press release today, Harvard University imposed a blatant act of censorship and double standard on two of its student groups because they had planned to host a party called “Barely Legal.” As we wrote:

In April, the Latino Men’s Collective (LMC) and Fuerza Latina proposed that a party be held in the Adams House Dining Hall. Adams House administrators agreed to host the partybut once the party was publicized using the “Barely Legal” name, several students complained to the House masters. The student leadership of both LMC and Fuerza Latina publicly stated that they meant no offense by the party’s name and did not intend to glorify or encourage illegal activity. Nevertheless, Adams House administrators told LMC and Fuerza Latina they would not be allowed to hold the party unless the name was changed. The students agreed to take down all publicity for the party (a YouTube advertisement with the original name remains). Adams House Resident Dean Sharon Howell told The Harvard Crimson that the students “should have been more thoughtful considering the context.”

Just threatening to cancel a student group’s party because some people found its name offensive is a clear violation of Harvard’s own binding promises of freedom of expression. You can watch the video for yourself right here and tell us if you think that this should be taken seriously at all by Harvard’s administrators.

As FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said:

No one assumes that a college agrees with or endorses all the expression on its campusnot only would this be impossible, but it is also incompatible with a true ‘marketplace of ideas.’ If Harvard is willing to censor something as small as a party with a mild theme, how can we believe that it will defend the expression of truly controversial views on its campus? It boggles the mind why Harvard thought it should intervene here in the first place.

Schools: Harvard University