George Washington University Badgers Innocent YAF Students
October 12, 2007
by Adam Kissel
Randy Hall at the Cybercast News Service has it right: “GWU Punishes Victims.” The “victims” to whom the title alludes are the members of the George Washington University student chapter of Young America’s Foundation (YAF), which was parodied in flyers posted around campus by non-YAF students who have admitted posting the flyers. The clearly satirical flyers read, “HATE MUSLIMS? SO DO WE” and implied that YAF had authorized the flyers (although reading the whole flyer makes it obvious that YAF was not the author). But now a GWU official is badgering YAF, the group says, to
draft a statement which states that you will not allow hate speech to be a part of any of YAF’s events, literature, written or verbal communication …
Although the badgering from Bridgette Behling, GWU’s director of student involvement, is introduced by her as “a good faith effort,” she continues with an ominous warning:
This statement should also include your plan for preventing these things from happening, as well as the consequences for these things happening … It is important that we have this document should any further incidents occur as we move forward.
From where I sit, Behling’s request looks like a recipe that is calculated to undermine YAF. First, get the YAF to ban “hate speech” among its members. (Remember that “hate speech” not only is generally protected by the First Amendment but also is an ill-defined term that classifies speech by the reaction of the listener, rational or not.) Then, wait for the complaints to come in, justified or not, from others on campus who don’t like what YAF does or says during Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week or at any time in the future. Third, whip out this statement, claim that YAF is not following its own stated policy, and take action against YAF.
All of this from Bridgette Behling in response to posters that were not even put up by YAF? Outrageous.
If Behling writes in to FIRE to explain what she meant by her email to YAF, I will report what she says. In the meantime, it looks like an unwarranted preemptive strike against the targets of a parody.