Torch readers will remember the ongoing struggles of Temple University Purpose, the Temple student organization put on probation earlier this month for hosting FIRE President Greg Lukianoff without notifying the Student Center that Greg is "political" or "controversial." TU Purpose believed—correctly!—that Greg is neither, but the Student Center administration disagreed and decided to punish the group for failing to fill out the paperwork as they thought should be done. As Greg observed in a recent column for The Huffington Post, TU Purpose’s punishment was more likely due to the group’s penchant for inviting controversial figures to campus than to Greg’s own notoriety or botched paperwork:
I sincerely doubt that the decision to pick on this student group and a speech by me was coincidental. Temple University Purpose has a knack for stirring up controversy, having brought to campus both Dutch politician Geert Wilders and notable Iranian dissidents (here’s some video). But even if it was just bureaucratic overreach, it is an object lesson on why it is such a problem that campus bureaucracies have been mushrooming over the past two decades, bringing with them many of the ridiculous cases I have to fight on a daily basis.
Today, TU Purpose received a double shot of publicity in The Temple News, in the form of an article covering the group’s troubles with Temple administrators and an editorial blasting the university for its rough treatment of the group.
In the article, TU Purpose President Alvaro Watson, proud of the fact that his group is "not afraid of tackling issues that other organizations might be afraid of," argues that his group is being singled out because of the content of its events:
Watson said he believes that the probation is yet another attempt by Student Affairs to place a roadblock in front of the organization and dissuade them from sponsoring controversial events in the future.
"We’ve done everything required of us for our events. We’ve made sure to dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’. Yet, Student Center Operations continues to throw obstacles in our way to shut us up," he added.
The article also quotes FIRE’s Adam Kissel, who points out the danger presented by Temple’s mistreatment of TU Purpose to all student groups:
Kissel said this latest probation issue raises both due-process and freedom-of-speech issues, and that other student organizations should be wary of the implications of TU Purpose’s treatment.
"We have asked Temple to explain their seemingly random decisions and actions, but they haven’t. This is a danger to every student organization’s freedom of speech rights on [Temple’s] campus," Kissel said.
The Temple News‘ editorial takes the university’s Student Center Operations administration to task for its "ill-advised and hasty" decision to place TU Purpose on probation:
TU Purpose deserves the same privileges as other student organizations, no matter how controversial its events are. It is also worth mentioning that Lukianoff is hardly a polarizing figure, so the lack of security at this event seems like a minor oversight at worst. Lukianoff said in an article on the Huffington Post that he has only once needed security at an event, one where he sat on a panel that discussed cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
Temple and [Student Center Operations] only look bad, even if their intentions are sincere, when superfluous sanctions like this are thrown around. If there are legitimate reasons, explain them, and the controversy would disappear. Otherwise, the probation and hasty reversal only create more controversy where none needs to be.
FIRE agrees with the Temple News‘ criticism of the university’s handling of TU Purpose’s admirable attempts to bring discussion about free speech and other important issues to campus. We will of course keep you posted on the situation as events develop.