Ferguson Hall / credit: Albion College / Flickr
Albion College student Alexander Tokie expects to learn soon whether he will face punishment for making a hyperbolic joke about “ANTIFA and ISIS hunting permits.” Despite originally threatening to hold his hearing over winter break when he would be away from campus, Tokie tells FIRE that administrators have now agreed to hold the hearing during the upcoming semester instead.
As FIRE explained in a press release last month, Tokie was informed by administrators on Nov. 8 that he was charged with violating Albion’s policy against the “[u]se of, or threatened use of, physical force or violence” for an email he sent in September to his fellow College Republicans with a number of suggestions on countering arguments about “white privilege.”
Tokie concluded the email with a suggestion to his peers: “Take the liberal tears from the idiot you just destroyed in your debate, dissemble your American made Springfield M1911 .45 caliber handgun and apply the tears in order to clean the mechanism, reassemble and proceed to purchase ANTIFA and ISIS hunting permits and max out on tags[.]”
FIRE wrote to Albion president Mauri Ditzler on Nov. 16 to demand that the college end its investigation and recommit to its promise to honor “an individual’s rights to freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression specifically as they extend to the electronic information environment.”
While administrators initially decided to postpone Tokie’s planned Nov. 17 meeting after FIRE’s letter, they refused to drop the matter entirely, prompting FIRE to send another letter on Nov. 29.
Administrators then waited for weeks until the beginning of winter break to demand that Tokie return to campus for a hearing — which would be held in his absence if he couldn’t attend — and warned him that “[n]o reasonable interpretation of the Albion College Student Handbook would find a contract had been created between the college and an individual student.” Apparently, Albion’s administration believes that students should be “held responsible for the policies and procedures” in Albion’s handbook, but doesn’t believe that administrators should be held accountable to the free speech commitments made in that same handbook.
While Albion has failed to listen to reason (or even its own commitments) and drop this investigation, at least administrators have decided not to force Tokie to return to campus for a hearing during winter break.
Albion still has time to make this right. If administrators need any help deciding how best to handle Tokie’s case, they simply need to review their own handbook and the free speech promises contained within. FIRE will be watching to ensure they do.
If you think Albion College should hold itself to the commitments it makes to students, you can join FIRE in speaking out and contact Ditzler.
TAKE ACTION: TELL ALBION COLLEGE TO RESPECT STUDENT SPEECH