As FIRE reported on Monday, The Primary Source (TPS), Tufts University’s conservative paper, underwent a hearing on Monday night for charges of harassment, creating a hostile environment, and breach of community standards. These charges were filed by students because TPS had printed a satirical Christmas carol “O Come All Ye Black Folk,” a critique of affirmative action; and “Islam—Translation: Submission,” a parody of Tufts’ Islamic Awareness Week.” Tufts University’s student handbook claims that Tufts will protect even “controversial speech.”
TPS asked syndicated columnist Ben Shapiro, a student at Harvard Law School, to serve as their advocate at the hearing and make the closing remarks on behalf of TPS. Ben’s column today describes the accusations and accusers thusly:
David Dennis, a self-described gay black student, brought a complaint of harassment before the CSL averring that the carol constituted a “psychological attack by causing any black student to question their own intelligence and capability as a student at Tufts based solely on their skin color.” Meanwhile, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) similarly claimed that the “Islam: Arabic Translation: Submission” piece was “a deliberate attack on the Muslims on campus and is clearly meant to provoke us.”
As is often the case with campus tribunals, due process was a sham. Ben writes:
The process was a mockery. After an initial request for silence, the crowd was allowed to cheer for the complainants and razz The Source. The CSL board allotted twice as much time to Dennis and Mohamed than they did to The Source. They granted Dennis and Mohamed extra time, while clocking The Source to the second. Dennis was allowed to slander members of The Source as racists, stating that the conservative agenda was “lower taxes, less government, hate black people.”
At midnight, after the hearing had dragged on for more than five hours, Ben gave his closing remarks, stating that the satirical items printed in TPS clearly constitute political speech and that “diversity of thought means protection of unpopular political views.” His counterpart was not so gracious to free speech. According to Ben, Dennis said to TPS, “We don’t like you. Nobody likes you. There should be consequences.”
This trial has shown that the ideological climate at Tufts is stifling to free expression and the diversity of viewpoints. Students at the local community college have better protections of free speech than students at Tufts. Ben’s prediction of the pending decision from the board is not optimistic.
Dennis and Mohamed will likely receive what they want from a board so biased it makes Castro’s judiciary look like a haven of open-mindedness. If you’re against affirmative action—if you feel, as Justice Clarence Thomas does, that it is inherently degrading—you may be guilty of harassment at Tufts. If you believe that Islam is linked to violence, you may be guilty of harassment at Tufts. On the Tufts campus, forget defending your views or listening to others’ views: Victimology trumps all.
Unless Tufts wants its campus to continue as a place where Ben’s description is accurate, then it must uphold its own commitments to protect free speech on campus. FIRE is prepared to use all of our available resources to makes sure that Tufts keeps its promise of free expression to all its students, including The Primary Source.