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Tufts Delays Decision on Paper’s Punishment

Under a barrage of media pressure, the student judiciary at Tufts University has decided to delay their decision about whether satirical political content published by The Primary Source (TPS), a conservative student newspaper, constituted “harassment” and created a “hostile environment.” FIRE was informed yesterday afternoon by the editors of TPS that the decision was not being released yesterday, as previously expected. The notification regarding the delay comes on the heels of last week’s national media attention to the case in the form of a feature on FOX News and an editorial by FIRE in the New York Post. We at FIRE can’t imagine what’s taking so long. Whether or not one finds the satire in question funny, enlightening, boring, or infuriating, it represents a clear instance of political speech—and precisely the type of “controversial speech” Tufts is supposed to “embrace,” according to the message from the university’s Dean of Student Affairs published in the student handbook. As Tara usefully pointed out last week:

[W]hile Tufts, a private university, is not legally bound by the First Amendment, it makes extensive promises to its students about their right to freedom of speech which it is bound to uphold. Such charges would be immediately dismissed if brought in a court of law, as the articles’ offensiveness was not so severe, persistent, and pervasive that it denied someone of the chance to benefit from his or her educational experience. Students trying to avoid exposure to the articles in question could simply have chosen not to read them, and any possible offense would have been avoided.

Even the school’s president wrote an editorial explaining to the community that while TPS’ speech may be unpleasant to some, even many, it does not warrant any punishment. We can’t imagine why the student judiciary is taking so long to reach what should be an obvious conclusion to any student or teacher who values free expression.

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