Tufts University Case in ‘The Phoenix’

By on August 30, 2007

FIRE cofounder Harvey A. Silverglate and Jan Wolfe published a piece in yesterday’s edition of The Phoenix commenting on recent developments at Tufts University.
Torch readers are undoubtedly familiar with the latest developments at Tufts: Even though University President Lawrence Bacow issued a statement affirming First Amendment protections at the private institution, the school’s harassment finding against a conservative student publication for printing satire still stands.
Echoing our statements in yesterday’s press release, Harvey and Jan write:
While Bacow and Glaser should be commended for their eloquent defense of the First Amendment, it’s puzzling that they have not reversed the harassment charge itself. Harassment has a fairly clear-cut legal definition, and to describe these parodies as such waters down the term and renders it meaningless. The ruling also discourages students from engaging in parody, a time-tested and valuable literary device. The threat to academic freedom is particularly grave in the case of the Muslim Students Association flyer parody, as the piece contained only demonstrably factual statements about Islam, complete with footnotes.
While the editors of The Primary Source might be off the hook, a disciplinary ruling that is not flatly reversed maintains some of its power as a precedent. An ominous sword of Damocles still hangs over the head of any Tufts student who wishes to make a social or political point by making fun of someone. Colleges need to learn that poking fun at a sacred cow doesn’t always mean the poor animal’s being harassed.

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