As Torch readers know, last month FIRE exposed the fact that Tufts University had punished a student publication, The Primary Source, for “harassment” for running articles criticizing affirmative action policies and Islamic violence. Its punishment is that it is now forbidden to run any unsigned articles—unlike every other publication on Tufts’ campus, and unlike just about every newspaper in America. This sanction makes a lot of sense when you realize that this will make it much easier for future bogus charges of “harassment” at Tufts to be lodged against individuals, instead of just a publication. After all, you can ruin a student’s career with harassment charges, but the worst you can do to a publication is shut it down!
Then, just a couple of weeks later, Tufts made things worse when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who obviously was not correctly informed of what happened to The Primary Source, praised Tufts during a commencement address for its handling of the situation! At the time, I said the following right here on The Torch:
Unless the mayor of New York City is an avid reader of the Tufts Daily, the information for his speech must have come from either Tufts administrators or from his own research, which was undoubtedly performed before Tufts decided to punish the students for the articles just ten days before the commencement address. If I were Mayor Bloomberg, I’d be pretty angry that Bacow or one of his flunkies didn’t see fit to inform me that one of the pillars of my commencement speech—in fact, the example I used to illustrate the value of “respect”—was no longer factually correct.
Now we have some data to back up this deduction. Last night, we received an e-mail from a Tufts parent. She had this to say:
Dear FIRE Editors, I am the parent of a Tufts student. The day before Bloomberg’s commencement speech, I spent an hour on the phone calling various numbers within the mayor’s office, essentially begging press officers, advisors, advisors to advisors, assistants to advisors, etc. to be sure to inform the mayor of Tufts’ decision to sanction The Primary Source for exercising free speech.
That evening, I got a call back from the Mayor’s press office advising me that the mayor’s close staff had been informed and thanking me for the information. Now, I am not naive enough to believe that the mayor did not know about the witch hunt before my calls… I was only calling him to voice advance appreciation IF something about TPS could be slipped into his speech. I never thought it would happen.
Today, when I read his speech… I was stunned. Clearly the mayor’s staff was not given the big picture when they contacted the school for confirmation. They were only told that TPS “lives” without informing the mayor’s people of the campus trial and the “new authoring rules” that only happen to apply to one publication.
The future of TPS is up for grabs and I will be calling the mayor in the morning to make sure he knows how he was swindled.
From this account, it looks like the mayor did do his homework by calling Tufts for confirmation, and was told by Tufts that no punishment had been levied! Not a surprise, really, but disappointing nonetheless. It seems clear to me that Tufts owes Bloomberg an apology—and if Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t get one, he ought to demand it, or at least feel free to criticize Tufts for “swindling” him.