The occasion was “Islamic Awareness Week” on campus, a cause to which the conservative student newspaper, The Primary Source, merrily contributed. That thoughtcrime, coupled with an anti-affirmative-action Christmas carol published in the December issue, earned it a hearing before the college’s Committee on Student Life. Verdict: guilty of “harassment.” Sentence: a requirement that all pieces published henceforth in TPS carry a byline, presumably so that aggrieved parties in the future might know whom specifically to “confront” with their complaints. Oh, and the committee’s recommendation:
We ask that student governance consider the behavior of student groups in future decisions concerning recognition and funding.
That’s a veiled threat to put them out of business, in case you’re having trouble reading between the lines.
FIRE’s president, Greg Lukianoff, is having a righteous conniption over it:
The Primary Source published a satirical ad filled with factual assertions and because this angered people it was ruled to be unprotected harassment. If what the complaining students wanted to say was that the TPS facts were wrong, then–while this still would not be harassment–that could have been an interesting debate. But instead, in sadly predictable fashion, the students plowed ahead with a harassment claim that, based on the hearing panel’s decision, appeared not even to raise the issue of whether or not the statements in the ad were true, but turned only on how they made people feel. A panel consisting of both faculty and students found the publication guilty in flagrant abuse of what harassment case law and regulations actually say, and demonstrating total ignorance of the principles of a free society. Even in libel law (one of the oldest exceptions to the rule of free speech is that you can be punished for defaming people) truth is rightfully an absolute defense. Here, the fact that TPS printed verifiable information—with citations—was apparently no defense, nor was the fact that the ad concerned contentious issues of dire global importance. Such an anemic conception of free speech should chill anyone who cares about basic rights and democracy itself.
I doubt that the Tufts disciplinary board thought through the full ramifications of their actions. If a Muslim student had published these same statements in an article calling for reform in Islam, would that be harassment? If Tufts wished to be at all consistent (a dubious bet here), it would be.
Emphases in original. Lukianoff doesn’t ask how this would have played out with Christianity the target instead of Islam, probably because the answer’s too obvious to make the question worth posing.
If all this seems familiar, it’s because it’s exactly what happened on YouTube to our “First, They Came” video (now posted at QubeTV) and to Nick Gisburne, the British atheist who saw his account deleted (twice) for the sin of quoting — simply quoting — incendiary passages from the Koran after having quoted incendiary passages from the Bible in previous videos without reprimand. The unstated rule applies across the spectrum of “progressive” institutions: don’t criticize Islam. Here’s Gisburne’s video, since reposted by a sympathizer, so you can see for yourself what passes for hate speech nowadays.