Foundation for Individual Rights in Education story:
Tufts University has found a conservative student publication guilty of harassment and creating a hostile environment for publishing political satire. Despite explicitly promising to protect controversial and offensive expression in its policies, the Tufts Committee on Student Life decided yesterday to punish the student publication The Primary Source (TPS) for printing two articles that offended African-American and Muslim students on campus. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has spearheaded the defense of TPS, is now launching a public campaign to oppose Tuftsâ€™ outrageous actions.
â€œWe now know that Tuftsâ€™ promises of free expression are hollow,â€ FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. â€œBy punishing political expressionâ€”the type of expression at the very core of the right to free speechâ€”Tufts has shown that, in spite of its promises, it has no regard for its studentsâ€™ fundamental rights. Such hypocrisy must not go unchallenged.â€
Last December, TPS published a satirical Christmas carol entitled â€œOh Come All Ye Black Folk.â€ Although TPS runs a Christmas carol parody every year, Decemberâ€™s carol sparked controversy on campus because it harshly lampooned race-based admissions. Realizing that the carol offended large portions of the Tufts community, TPS published an apology on December 6, 2006. Four months later, however, a student filed charges alleging that the carol constituted â€œharassmentâ€ and created a â€œhostile environment.â€ Other students filed similar charges in response to TPSâ€™ April 11, 2007 piece entitled â€œIslamâ€”Arabic Translation: Submission,â€ a satirical advertisement that ridiculed Tuftsâ€™ â€œIslamic Awareness Weekâ€ by highlighting militant Islamic terrorism.
The two complaints were consolidated for a hearing before the universityâ€™s Committee on Student Life on April 30, 2007. Yesterday, the Committee issued a decision holding that TPS had violated the universityâ€™s harassment policy by publishing the two pieces. The Committee found that the carol â€œtargeted [black students] on the basis of their race, subjected them to ridicule and embarrassment, intimidated them, and had a deleterious impact on their growth and well-being on campus.â€ The Committee also held that the parody of Islamic Awareness Week â€œtargeted members of the Tufts Muslim community for harassment and embarrassment, and that Muslim students felt psychologically intimidated by the piece.”