On May 17, 2017, a newly-forming student organization at Lawrence University, Students for Free Thought, hosted an on-campus screening and discussion of the 2015 documentary film “Can We Take a Joke?” Prior to the event, a vice president of the university sent a campus-wide email addressing the controversy surrounding the film’s screening. The documentary was paused halfway through on the night of the screening as a heated dispute broke out, and one student was asked to leave. Students for Free Thought had, at the time of the screening, been an organization recognized on a trial basis by the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC), the university’s student government. In the wake of the screening, LUCC denied official recognition to Students for Free Thought, citing the group’s anonymous membership, similarity to existing groups, broad membership criteria, and mission statement. LUCC also cited the group’s purported non-compliance with LUCC’s recommendations that the group collaborate with other groups on campus, find “new” and “inclusive” members for the organization, and obtain a “neutral moderator” for the viewing of the documentary.
May 24, 2017
Lawrence University’s student government denied group recognition to a free speech club after it screened a documentary about free speech in comedy. FIRE calls on the Lawrence administration to stand behind its promise to students of free expression “without fear of censorship or retaliation.” APPLETON, Wis., May 24, 2017 — Can Lawrence University take a joke? Apparently not. On Monday, the university’s student government denied recognition to a student group after it hosted an event where it showed “Can We Take a Joke?,” a documentary on free speech in comedy. Yesterday, Lawrence President Mark Burstein sent a campus-wide email saying […]» Read More