With the ongoing censure of and strike at Le Moyne College that FIRE reported on yesterday, FIRE was reminded that there are many reasons that college administrators have decided that a free press is simply not something with which they should have to contend. The Missouri State cartoon we reprinted on the blog yesterday is a great example. Here’s another one, from Harvard Business School in 2003. See if you can figure out what about this cartoon was so offensive that Dean Kim B. Clark of Harvard Business School considered a violation of Harvard’s “community standards code”:
This is hard, so don’t feel bad if you missed it. If you look carefully at the bottom left corner of the computer screen in the cartoon, you will see two words: “incompetent morons.” That’s what did it. From FIRE’s January 8, 2003, press release on the situation:
On November 4, several high HBS administrators met with Nick Will, editor-in-chief of the Harbus, to express their displeasure with the cartoon. Will received a “verbal warning,” which he understood to be the first step of a disciplinary procedure for violation of HBS’s “community standards” code.… On November 8, Dean Clark himself issued a HBS-wide statement that “Each of us first and foremost is a member of the Harvard Business School community, and as such, we are expected to treat each other respectfully. Referring to members of our community as ‘incompetent morons’ does not fall within the realm of respectful discourse.”
Ultimately, under pressure from FIRE and others, Harvard backed off. But that’s what, at least for a while, served as an excuse for press censorship at one of our nation’s most elite schools. Disturbing, isn't it?
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Bad speech codes contribute to a school’s score in the rankings, and this policy is the sole reason the university earns FIRE’s worst, “red light” rating.