Mike Adams has written another scathing indictment of Johns Hopkins for its decision to kick a student off campus for a year (among other punishments) for writing a Halloween invitation. Adams writes:
Johns Hopkins University President William Brody (410-516-8068; email@example.com) recently wrote a column in response to the public outcry over his university’s handling of the now-infamous Hopkins Halloween controversy. His column evidences both a profound ignorance of constitutional principles and a profane indifference towards intellectual honesty.
Adams also makes a crucial, yet often overlooked point:
What William Brody and other college administrators fail to grasp is that speech codes have made campus life less rather than more civil in recent years. Rather than complaining that we have “civility” problems despite the presence of campus speech codes, perhaps some day they will come to realize that we have these problems because of campus speech codes. The more administrators try to enforce “civility” at the point of a gun, the more these students rebel. That is why much of what seems to be adolescent name-calling is, in fact, core First Amendment political speech.
Thanks to Mike for bringing greater attention to this issue. As we wrote in our latest letter to Johns Hopkins last week:
[P]erhaps most importantly, in all of this debate and discussion over Justin’s case, we are concerned that the basic facts of the case have been obscured. Justin Park is a brilliant student who started at Johns Hopkins University at age 15. To our knowledge, he has had no previous disciplinary problems. Like students across the country, he posted an invite to a themed Halloween party using slang and jokes from popular music and television programs. He was found guilty of a number of serious offenses, kicked off of campus entirely for a year, and sentenced to hundreds of community service hours, despite the fact he had already apologized for his actions. The university’s actions here threaten to ruin a promising student’s career and to cement Hopkins’ reputation as the school where an insensitive joke can mean the end of all of a student’s hard work. This is not fair, this is not right, and this is not the way we deal with speech that offends us in a free society. By teaching students that they have a right not to be offended, and that expression will only be tolerated so long as it is agreeable, you do your students a grave disservice and fail to prepare them to be active participants in a pluralistic democracy.
We hope that Hopkins will reaffirm its commitment to the values of free expression, due process, and free speech, and trust in the open discussion and dialogue to handle instances of “offensive” speech.
Hopkins cannot claim to respect free speech and then bar a student from campus for a year because he made a joke some students found unfunny. There is still time for Hopkins to live up to its promises of free speech to Justin Park; let’s hope it decides to do the right thing.