June 8, 2012
by Joseph Cohn
Okay, it's a terrible Shakespearean pun. But as bad a pun as this blog post's title is, it's still nowhere near as disappointing as the state of free speech at East Tennessee State University (ETSU).
The basic story is that as part of a "civility week," the Student Government Association created T-shirts with various slurs on the front and the message "I am more than a label. Think. Live. Respect." on the back. The T-shirt campaign was quite clearly a campaign to combat stereotyping. Nevertheless, the ETSU administration wasn't so thrilled with the shirts, and quickly imposed heavy-handed censorship.
FIRE Vice President Adam Kissel has more in his May 25 Huffington Post article:
According to the East Tennessean, ETSU Vice Provost and Dean of Students Joe H. Sherlin, Jr., called the Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Branch to a meeting and demanded that the students limit their use of the T-shirts. After much debate, the T-shirts were limited to just four hours on one day and in one location -- from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the school's Borchuck Plaza -- as well as at the 'Label' event in the evening. In addition, the administration apparently demanded that the SGA further limit the number of students who would wear the T-shirts to 150 and demanded the "return of the shirts so as to not allow one to become a 'prize' or source of humor" afterward. SGA officials were livid.
Click here to read the full article.