Syracuse University: Police Threaten to Censor Halloween Costumes

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Syracuse University

Anthony Callisto, Director of Syracuse University’s Department of Public Safety, told student newspaper The Daily Orange that DPS would require students to remove “offensive” Halloween costumes and would report students wearing such costumes to Syracuse’s Office of Judicial Affairs. Callisto said that “If we detect that there’s a person with an offensive costume, we’d likely require them to remove it, and we would file a judicial complaint” (Daily Orange, October 14, 2010). This article appeared three days after Thomas V. Wolfe, Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs, e-mailed the student body encouraging students to “be thoughtful and sensitive when choosing [their] costume[s]” because they put their safety in danger if others on campus became too offended by their costumes. Callisto’s statements violate Syracuse’s promises of free speech and chill student expression, and Wolfe’s statement promotes a “heckler’s veto” on campus. FIRE wrote Chancellor Nancy Cantor on November 18, 2010, asking her to make clear to students that they will not be investigated or prosecuted for their protected expression.

  • Syracuse University law student learns there’s a limit to free speech

    February 1, 2011

    by Abram Brown   Syracuse, NY — A controversy over a satirical blog that commented on everything from professors to bathrooms to sex at Syracuse University’s College of Law came to an end Tuesday afternoon. SU, which was named “the No. 1 worst campus for free speech in America” over this issue, by a free speech advocacy group, decided to stop the investigation into the SUCOLitis blog and not to file charges against one of the student authors, according to Kevin Quinn, SU’s vice president of public affairs, in a news release. “We have determined it is in the […]

    » Read More

  • SU’s STOP Bias Program Endangers a Wide Swath of Protected Speech

    November 29, 2010

    Last week, Adam wrote about Syracuse University (SU) encouraging its students to help them crack down on “offensive” Halloween costumes and other “bias incidents” as part of its STOP Bias program.  To help students detect “bias incidents,” SU has a webpage that defines bias and provides examples. The definition and examples—which include things like “telling jokes” and “stereotyping” on the basis of “political or social affiliation”—are both laughably broad. The STOP Bias program could silence a large amount of fairly innocuous speech. As FIRE supporter Betsy Speicher comments on our Facebook page: According to the Syracuse University web page “What is bias” […]

    » Read More