On Monday evening at Tufts University, I attended a long, grueling show trial -- the kind of show trial that doubtless will be repeated at campuses across the United States. This show trial was convened with the sole purpose of punishing The Primary Source, Tufts' lone conservative periodical.
What was The Source's sin? On December 6, 2006, The Source printed a tasteless parody carol entitled "O Come, All Ye Black Folk." The carol was written from the perspective of an admissions officer, admitting students solely based on racially discriminatory stereotypes: "All come! Blacks, we need you, / Born into the ghetto. / O Jesus! We need you now to fill our racial quotas." The point of the carol, the editors later said, was that affirmative action is inherently degrading to racial minorities. After the carol was misinterpreted, the editors repeatedly apologized for printing it.
In the April 11, 2007, issue, The Source printed a page entitled "Islam: Arabic Translation: Submission." The page carried quotes from the Koran juxtaposed with facts about certain adherents of Islam -- their involvement with terrorism, discrimination against women, and the slave trade, among others.
This material is clearly political speech. Though Tufts is a private university, the student handbook explains that "the university is committed to free and open discussion of ideas and opinions."
Well, not that committed. "Harassment involves attitudes or opinions that are expressed verbally or in writing, or through behavior that constitutes a threat, intimidation, psychological attack, or physical assault," says the handbook. "Harassment is prohibited at Tufts and may result in disciplinary consequences." And being offended, according to the Committee on Student Life (CSL), constitutes harassment.
Such policies incentivize victimology. Predictably, one David Dennis, a self-described gay black student, brought a complaint of harassment before the CSL averring that the carol constituted a "psychological attack by causing any black student to question their own intelligence and capability as a student at Tufts based solely on their skin color." Meanwhile, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) similarly claimed that the "Islam: Arabic Translation: Submission" piece was "a deliberate attack on the Muslims on campus and is clearly meant to provoke us."
So the CSL held a hearing to determine whether The Source ought to be punished. The show trial was closed to outside media; I was only present because members of The Primary Source editorial board asked if I would give a closing statement on their behalf.