NYU’s Shame

March 29, 2006

FIRE revealed in this morning’s press release the sorry state of affairs at New York University:

Earlier this month, the NYU Objectivist Club decided to hold a panel discussion entitled “Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons,” at which the cartoons will be displayed. Similar events, sponsored by the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), have taken place on several other campuses. Like previous NYU Objectivist Club events, the discussion was to be open to the public.

However, on Monday afternoon, NYU Director of Student Activities Robert Butler sent an e-mail requesting a meeting with the leaders of the Objectivist Club the next day. He also informed them that NYU would now “require that this event be open only to members of the NYU community.” Butler cited “the campus climate and controversy surrounding the cartoons,” ordering the students to inform the “non-NYU people” who had already registered that they “should not plan on attending.” He concluded, “This is not negotiable.”

Following the meeting, Butler sent another e-mail clarifying that the students have two choices: they must either not display the cartoons, or not allow anyone from off campus to attend the event. Approximately 150 off-campus guests are currently registered to attend.

So, there you have it: another of our nation’s most elite universities has caved to the censors. And as Anthony Dick noted at Phi Beta Cons:

FIRE’s president, Greg Lukianoff, is set to participate in the panel tonight. Which should have stimulated some flicker of activity inside the skulls of NYU’s administrators: When the head of a national civil-liberties watchdog group comes to your campus, it’s probably not the smartest PR move to say to hell with free speech by locking down the event at which he is speaking.

Yep, not very smart at all. Greg is leaving for New York shortly; he, the other panelists, and the student organizers are forging ahead. In the meantime, since NYU’s president failed to respond to a phone call from Greg yesterday, we’re calling on NYU publicly to repudiate mob rule and restore freedom of speech on its campus. And in case you don’t believe that things are really so bad up there, check out the e-mail that has come into FIRE’s possession:

I want to thank those of you who have sent e-mails.  NYU has decided to let the event continue so the Islamic Center has decided to step things up.  The event is tomorrow at 7 at E&L in Kimmel.  Tickets are being distributed for free via Ticket Central.  The Islamic Center would like everyone to get tickets to this event so we can kill their attendance figures.

Let’s remember, we have no problem with dialogue but the cartoons go against Muslims for two reasons.  First, the depiction of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) is strictly forbidden.  Secondly, it makes a horrible generalization that all Muslims are terrorists.

Therefore I ask you to go to ticket central, get two tickets for this event, and rip them up.

Ripping tickets up so people can’t hear a civil discussion on “possibly the most important cartoons in history,” eh? Yep, that’s also a great PR move—not to mention an indicator that perhaps NYU is not teaching enough of its students about its alleged belief (see its policies) in “maintaining an environment where open, vigorous debate and speech can occur.”

Whoops. FIRE looks forward to seeing all those who are doing liberty such a disservice at NYU given their just desserts in the court of public opinion.

Schools:  New York University