FIRE to Tufts: Drop the Guilty Finding, Get Off Red Alert List
December 5, 2007
by William Creeley
The letter FIRE sent out this morning
to Tufts University President Lawrence Bacow and the Tufts Board of Trustees makes absolutely clear what the school must do to end its embarrassing tenure on FIRE’s Red Alert list
: Immediately drop the remaining finding of “guilty” against conservative student publication The Primary Source
), which Tufts charged with creating a “hostile environment” and “harassment” for publishing two satirical articles.
readers will no doubt recall the shameful saga that has led FIRE to write Tufts for a third time to issue this request. But if your memory needs refreshing, here’s a quick recap: Last December, TPS
published lyrics to a sarcastic Christmas carol of their own invention, designed to mock affirmative action. In April, TPS
published a factual yet caustic satire of “Islamic Awareness Week.” Complaints from offended students led TPS
to be formally charged with “harassment” and “creating a hostile environment,” and a university panel found TPS guilty of the charges
—despite the fact that (a) students were under absolutely no obligation to read the articles and (b) President Bacow himself had noted in an editorial regarding the controversy
that he disagreed with punishing TPS
, as “[t]he First Amendment protects freedom of speech and that includes most offensive speech.” Even The Pachyderm
, Tufts’ student handbook, instructs all incoming students
to “anticipate stimulating and sometimes controversial dialogue about issues important to you” and to “cherish the opportunity to be learning in a place where controversial expression is embraced.”
This finding cannot stand. As we have explained at length in our previous letters (July 31, 2007 letter attached), neither TPS’ December Christmas carol nor its April parody of “Islamic Awareness Week” constitute “hostile environment harassment.” Each article was unquestionably a work of political satire, and students were under no obligation whatsoever to read either piece.
That TPS remains guilty of hostile environment harassment, despite the subsequent amelioration of the sanctions levied against it, is incompatible with your public pronouncements of the value of free expression on campus.
FIRE hopes that President Bacow understands the damage his failure to fully exonerate TPS is doing to his school’s reputation—and acts to stop it. We’ll keep you posted.