‘The Washington Times’ Targets Tufts’ Ban of Unsigned Editorials

July 6, 2007

The Washington Times editorial yesterday highlighted an important aspect of FIRE’s recent case at Tufts University. The Primary Source, a conservative student paper at Tufts, was punished for publishing two satirical articles parodying affirmative action and “Islamic Awareness Week.” As punishment, The Primary Source is not allowed to publish anonymous articles, a long standing tradition of a free press. Far from being an effort by the paper to avoid responsibility for the content of an article, anonymous editorials represent statements made by the entire editorial staff, who together accept all the responsibility such an editorial entails. The Washington Times writes:

The point of the “everything printed must have a byline” punishment is presumably to keep students from writing editorials that might offend the sensibilities of some students. The faculty chair of the Committee on Student Life, Barbara Grossman, said, “The Primary Source can continue to print what it chooses, but it should not have the shelter of anonymity from which to launch hurtful attacks.” But as Mark Fitzgerald wrote in Editor & Publisher: “Unsigned editorials are not an evasion of responsibility—far from it. They represent a publication taking a stand, and putting all its institutional history and community standing on the line.”

Interference with an independent press is unacceptable at an institution that claims to believe in the free exchange of ideas. As The Washington Times said:

President Lawrence Bacow should heed his own advice—“the appropriate response to offensive speech is more speech, not less”—and reinstate the time-honored tradition of the unsigned editorial.

Schools:  Tufts University

Cases:  Tufts University: Conservative Student Journal Found Guilty of Harassment