Today’s ‘Campus Alert’: Don’t Joke at Tufts

By on May 14, 2007

Today’s installment of our weekly Campus Alert column in the New York Post focuses on the recent controversy at Tufts University, where conservative student journalists have been found guilty of “harassment” and “creating a hostile environment” for publishing two satirical articles that offended African-American and Muslim students.Torch readers are undoubtedly familiar with FIRE’s efforts in this case, which began with two satirical articles in The Primary Source (TPS) that are prime examples of controversial yet constitutionally protected speech. First, TPS printed a satirical Christmas carol called “Oh Come All Ye Black Folk,” mocking race-based admissions policies at Tufts. Four months later, a student filed “harassment” charges against the paper. TPS also ran a criticism of Tufts’ “Islamic Awareness Week” by reporting examples of brutality in Islamic societies, such as the oppression of women and homosexuals. Tufts claimed the article “targeted” Muslim students. As today’s Campus Alert states:

It is no surprise that the satire amused some students and offended others—which is often the point of satire and why it garners such strong protection under the First Amendment. To call satire of controversial issues “harassment” woefully ignores the legal definition of that term and makes a mockery of actual harassment. The abuse of “harassment” rationales to punish those who offend the wrong students or administrators has been all-too-common for decades now on campuses. Tufts’ actions here completely contradict its strong promises of freedom of speech. Tufts administrators might think they are helping students by protecting them from expression that—despite being perceptive or funny—offends in some way. But Tufts has done its students a disservice by insulating them from free speech.

FIRE is calling on Tufts President Lawrence Bacow to overturn this decision against TPS, and we will be watching the case very closely to ensure a just end.

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