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The Moment of Truth at Hampton University
On November 2, students at colleges across the country protested the war in Iraq by walking out of classes. Some students at Hampton University, however, thought that it would be more responsible to provide their fellow students with information on issues they consider important. So at noon, about 20 students gathered in the Student Center and began passing out flyers on the war in Iraq, the crisis in the Sudan, and the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina. Passers-by who expressed interest in these issues freely engaged the distributors in conversation. One student involved says that things went peacefully and that the information and dialogue were welcomed by students, “who have few venues at Hampton to express themselves in such a manner.” Seems like another nice day on the Hampton campus.
Except that handing out pieces of paper with things written on them is illegal at Hampton. After about a half hour, Hampton University Police officers arrived, told some students to take off their buttons that read “Resist or Die, November 2,” and took down the names of seven of the students. A few weeks later, those students received letters of reprimand saying that they faced potential expulsion for violating polices banning (1) cajoling and proselytizing to other students, (2) staging an unplanned demonstration, and (3) distributing unauthorized materials.
At 9 a.m. on Friday, Hampton will decide not only the fate of these seven students, but its own fate as an institution. As FIRE stated in its letter to Hampton University President William Harvey, Hampton can choose to uphold its Orwellian policies, or it can become an institution where freedom of speech is upheld and where students are free to speak their minds, distribute their literature, and express their opinions. The choice is yours, Hampton.
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