New York University: Suppression of Discussion of Mohammed Cartoons
In violation of its own policies, New York University (NYU) refused to allow a student group to show the Danish cartoons of Mohammed at a public event. Even though the purpose of the event was to show and discuss the cartoons, an administrator suddenly ordered the students either not to display them or to exclude 150 off-campus guests from attending. The NYU Objectivist Club decided to hold a panel discussion entitled "Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons," at which the cartoons would be displayed. The event, like previous Objectivist Club events, was open to the public. NYU Director of Student Activities Robert Butler informed the group that they had two choices: they must either not display the cartoons, or not allow anyone from off campus to attend the event. NYU President John Sexton refused to back down, despite FIRE's protesting that the university's actions blatantly violated the students' rights to free speech and expression.
- "NYU Continues to Defend Wrongdoing in Mohammed Cartoon Controversy," August 29, 2006: New York University President John Sexton has written FIRE to defend NYU’s decision to force its Objectivist Club not to show the controversial Danish Mohammed Cartoons at a discussion about those very cartoons. In response to FIRE’s letter to NYU’s Board of Trustees, Sexton claimed that the student organizers decided on their own not to show the cartoons. Sexton glosses over the fact that it was NYU’s administration that told the students that they could not show the cartoons if they opened the discussion to New Yorkers unaffiliated with NYU, dozens of whom had already registered to attend. Read FIRE's full response to President Sexton on The Torch.
- "Letter from NYU President John Sexton to FIRE, August 15, 2006," August 22, 2006
- "FIRE Letter to New York University Board of Trustees, July 28, 2006," July 28, 2006
- "‘USA Today’ on FIRE and the Mohammed Cartoons," April 19, 2006: USA Today this morning features a piece by Nat Hentoff, noted columnist and member of FIRE’s Board of Advisors, discussing the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy on America’s campuses. In the article, “‘Free speech’ cries ring hollow on college campuses and beyond,” Hentoff focuses on shameful instances of censorship at Minnesota’s Century College and at New York University—both cases in which FIRE was involved. The column is particularly timely in light of FIRE’s letter to NYU yesterday asking President John Sexton to publicly repudiate the university’s censorship of a discussion about the cartoons and to live up to the university’s promises of freedom of expression.
- "FIRE Letter to New York University President John E. Sexton, April 17, 2006," April 17, 2006
- "Victory for Freedom of Speech at the University of Southern California," April 10, 2006: Thanks to FIRE's intervention, the University of Southern California has publicly reaffirmed its commitment to freedom of speech and repudiated two instances of censorship.
- "The ‘New York Post’ on NYU’s Shame," April 3, 2006: A New York Post editorial from Sunday condemned New York University for its decision to “knuckle under” to the heckler’s veto by ordering that the Danish Mohammed cartoons not be shown at a public panel discussion about the cartoons. The Post approvingly quotes FIRE, which called NYU’s decision “both chilling and absurd. The fact that expression might provoke a strong reaction is a reason to protect it—not an excuse to punish it.”
- "NYU Shamefully Censors Cartoon Panel Discussion," March 30, 2006: Yesterday, FIRE announced that New York University (NYU) was planning to squelch a panel discussion on the Danish cartoons of Mohammed by requiring that the panel’s organizers choose either to exclude over 150 registered off-campus guests or to agree not to show the Danish cartoons. While the event was held last night with what students called their largest crowd ever, NYU did not allow the cartoons to be shown or allow all of the off-campus guests to attend. Instead, students were forced to display easels with blank panels. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, who took part in the discussion, noted, “Those blank easels were a testament to campus repression and a climate of fear.” More coverage is available on FIRE’s blog, The Torch.
- "NYU Surrenders to the Heckler’s Veto in Mohammed Cartoon Dispute," March 29, 2006: In violation of its own policies, New York University (NYU) is refusing to allow a student group to show the Danish cartoons of Mohammed at a public event tonight. Even though the purpose of the event is to show and discuss the cartoons, an administrator has suddenly ordered the students either not to display them or to exclude 150 off-campus guests from attending. FIRE is urging NYU’s president to reverse course and stand up for freedom of speech.
- "New York University Student Guide, Chapter 9," March 29, 2006
- "E-mail from NYU Director of Student Activities Robert Butler to Student Kara Zavarella, March 28, 2006," March 28, 2006
- "E-mail to NYU Bengali Students Association, March 28, 2006," March 28, 2006
- "E-mail from NYU Director of Student Activities Robert Butler to NYU Students, March 27, 2006," March 27, 2006
- "Speech on Campus After 9/11: Less Free than It Used to Be?,"
by Jennifer Van Bergen, FindLaw Legal News and Commentary, May 25, 2006
- "'Free speech' cries ring hollow on college campuses and beyond,"
by Nat Hentoff, USA Today, April 19, 2006
- "N.Y.U. bans Danish cartoons’ display at campus talk,"
by Chad Smith, The Villager (New York), April 12, 2006
- "Admin caves on cartoons,"
by Eric Moskowitz, Washington Square News (New York Univ.), April 3, 2006
- "NYU on Mohammed Cartoons: Discuss, but Don't Look,"
by Nathan Burchfiel, Cybercast News Service, April 3, 2006
- "NYU Knuckles,"
New York Post, April 2, 2006
- "Cartoons Discussed But Not Shown At NYU Event,"
by Bradley Hope, The New York Sun, March 30, 2006