Today, FIRE sent a second letter to Tufts University President Lawrence Bacow and the Tufts Board of Trustees regarding Tufts’ punishment of the conservative paper The Primary Source (TPS). As FIRE’s followers will recall, a university panel found that TPS was guilty of “harassment” and “creating a hostile environment” for printing a Christmas carol that mocked affirmative action last December and a satirical article about “Islamic Awareness Week” in April. In addition to pointing out that Tufts makes a mockery of a defined legal term by dubbing TPS’ opinionated, satirical articles “harassment,” FIRE’s letter today also emphasized that both Tufts’ policies and President Bacow’s explicit statements promise that students will enjoy full freedom of speech on campus, even when engaging in controversial and offensive expression. We also brought attention to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s commencement address, in which he embarrassingly commended Tufts for handling the TPS controversy without resorting to punishment. FIRE wrote,
Obviously, Mayor Bloomberg was misinformed (possibly deliberately so) of the finding against TPS. Having been erroneously lauded for handling the situation fairly before students, faculty, parents, alumni, and a national audience, it is high time for Tufts to reverse its findings against TPS, finally proving Tufts worthy of the praise Mayor Bloomberg so mistakenly offered.
Finally, today’s letter reminded Tufts administrators and trustees of the copious amounts of negative press that the case against TPS has garnered over the last few months. This coverage includes two columns in the New York Post, a scathing indictment of Tufts by FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate in The Phoenix, a reprint of FIRE’s letter to Mayor Bloomberg on The Huffington Post, an article by John Leo calling out President Bacow as a enemy of free speech in The New York Sun, and a truly biting piece about the entire debacle in the Boston Herald. FIRE also informed Bacow and the Tufts trustees that FIRE has named Tufts to our “Red Alert” list, an ignominious distinction reserved for those few institutions that are particularly hostile to free expression, where students would be wise to fear speaking their minds too freely. As the fall semester approaches, FIRE hopes to remind Tufts administrators and trustees that we are still watching, and will continue to take every opportunity to bring attention to the university’s disdain for free speech. As our letter today concluded,
It is time for Tufts to reestablish its commitment to fostering an open environment of free expression, where students are encouraged to speak their minds without fear of administrative sanction. … True freedom of the press at Tufts requires no less.