Fairfield University: Harassment Charge and Funding Threat Against Student Newspaper


Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

In September 2009, The Mirror, the independent student newspaper of Fairfield University, published a satirical column featuring sophomoric, crude “advice” to male students about how to treat a woman following a sexual encounter. The response to the column on campus was immediate and overwhelmingly negative. Despite a response and explanation from The Mirror’s editor-in-chief, in which he announced changes to the column, the controversy continued unabated. On November 9, administrators requested the paper’s editors appear in a hearing before a student conduct board to answer charges of harassment brought by four offended students who claimed that they were “personally harassed” by the column. FIRE wrote to Fairfield, urging it to drop the harassment charges against the newspaper and its staff pursuant to the university’s commitment to free expression. Following FIRE’s letter, the complaining parties agreed to mediation. Following the mediation session, the harassment charges were dropped and The Mirror promised to discontinue the column.