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Johns Hopkins: Harassment Investigation of Students for Newspaper Must Be Dismissed

Since we issued our press release yesterday about the shameful viewpoint discrimination at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), we have received many e-mails from angry citizens and Johns Hopkins alumni about what can be done. Yes, JHU should openly condemn the theft of The Carrollton Record (TCR) and should end its illiberal and selectively enforced distribution policies, but the single most important step JHU must take is to dismiss the harassment investigation against the newspaper.
On May 18, TCR editor Jered Ede was called into JHU’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Programs and informed that a harassment complaint had been filed against TCR staff members. The name of the individual who filed the complaint was not even released. JHU Counsel wrote in a letter to FIRE that “[t]he University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Programs has received a complaint that the TCR’s publication of the cover photo amounted to harassment. In keeping with standard practice, that office is investigating the complaint. I cannot comment on that investigation.”
The newspaper had published an issue critical of a student group for inviting a pornography director to campus and pictured some of the members of the student group on the cover of their paper. This is not harassment under any sensible definition of the term; it is not even close. If merely being critical of individuals is the same thing as unprotected harassment, then free speech means nothing.
This is yet another example of how harassment has been transformed into a term used too often on campus to describe any speech that someone strongly dislikes. If Johns Hopkins respects free speech at all, it cannot allow this expansive definition of harassment to be used to punish basic criticism and dissent. So what should concerned alumni and citizens do? They should let JHU President William Brody and Dean of Students Susan Boswell know that the university’s treatment of The Carrollton Record is both unworthy of and incompatible with the traditions of a great institution of higher learning.

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