FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s new column in the latest FIRE Quarterly explores the tension between the arbitrary nature of politeness as a social value and truthful candor. The column highlights our recent case at Tufts University, where a student newspaper was sanctioned for publishing verifiable facts that some people found “offensive.”
In this case we see censorship in its most dangerous form—where even verifiable facts are forbidden if they contain uncomfortable truths. Yes, the satirical advertisement was one-sided. Yes, it painted Islam in a less-than-favorable light. But if we’re going to have the discussions that we need to have as a society about problems facing our world, we cannot be restricted to merely what is polite, politically correct, or agreeable. It should also chill readers that the students who objected to The Primary Source advertisement sought official punishment as their first response instead of engaging in the debate that the advertisement was intended to initiate. FIRE is calling for Tufts’ administration to overrule this dangerous decision.FIRE exists in no small part to remind universities of what it means to live and educate in liberty. Education in a free society is a serious business, and if done correctly, feelings will be hurt, assumptions will be challenged, and uncomfortable questions will be asked. This is the natural result of the marketplace of ideas at work, and universities, especially Tufts, would do well to remember that.