Johns Hopkins University Tries to Ignore FIRE’s Objections to the State of Press Freedom on Campus

August 23, 2006

On August 9, FIRE wrote to the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Board of Trustees to once again express concern about the state of liberty on campus. FIRE had already written a letter in May to JHU President William Brody regarding violation of freedom of the press for The Carrollton Record (TCR). JHU counsel Frederick Savage responded to FIRE’s first letter by saying that 600 missing copies of TCR did not constitute theft, that TCR was prohibited from distributing in dorms by a “longstanding” (i.e., unwritten) policy, and that JHU would go forth with investigating the harassment complaints against TCR staffers. In a previous post on the Torch, FIRE explicated the numerous problems with Mr. Savage’s letter.

In response to our latest entreaty that JHU actually protect students’ right to free expression, FIRE received another letter dated August 15 from Dennis O’Shea, Executive Director for Communications and Public Affairs at JHU. The letter consisted of only two paragraphs. The first paragraph simply acknowledged the receipt of the letter. The second paragraph contained a vague promise that JHU does “not censor speech or student publications” and a commitment that JHU will review its policies on distribution to ensure “clarity.” It was a far cry from adequately addressing any of FIRE’s concerns. If JHU wishes to assure FIRE that it “remain(s) committed to the free expression of ideas,” as Mr. O’Shea stated in the letter, then there are three questions that need to be answered:

  1. Will JHU stop the harassment investigation of members of TCR?
  2. Will JHU condemn the theft of TCR?
  3. Will JHU eliminate the unwritten policy sanctioning viewpoint discrimination?

Unless the answer to these three ques tions is a resounding “yes,” freedom of expression is not safe at Johns Hopkins University. JHU cannot be allowed to duck these essential questions.

Schools:  Johns Hopkins University