Claremont Insider: Free Speech Black Out at 5-Cs

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Free Speech Black Out at 5-Cs

Above, left: Good --- Above, right: Bad
(Click on Images to Enlarge)

Aditya Bindal over at the Claremont Conservative blog has a post about a "Black Out" party being thrown next Saturday at the Edmunds Ballroom on the campus of Pomona College. The party is sponsored by Pan African Students Association, a 5-College organization.

Bindal wonders if the racial and gender stereotypes seen in the Black Out party poster will provoke the same sort of outcry from Scripps College Dean of Students Debra Wood as the February's White Party did.

To the great unwashed, this seems a double standard, which it is. Wood, and no doubt others, refuse to acknowledge this, and they seem to want to practice censorship in some instances but not in other similar situations. This sort of irrationality gets explained away by the Debra Wood School of Thought by simply saying, "I know better than you what's right and what's wrong."

(Residents of Claremont are very familiar with this same thinking, which has been applied to any number of fiscal and program initiatives. Maybe this is where the overlap in Town and Gown governance expresses itself most.)

Wood's type of censorship is getting notice. Charles Johnson at the Conservative noted that an organization called the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has singled out the Claremont Colleges for what FIRE believes is a chilling atmosphere for free speech.

In a letter dated March 18th, FIRE contacted the presidents of all five colleges, as well as the Claremont University Consortium. The letter cited the Debra Wood-White Party incident, as well as other incidents involving administrators at Scripps and Harvey Mudd College.

The letter said:
Taken together, these incidents show a concerted effort on the part of Claremont College administrators to pressure students to censor their expression. Even if those responsible for the controversial expression were not ultimately punished, the responses that were sent out to the Claremont College community - including references to notifying campus safety and to taking "appropriate action" in response to protected expression - are likely to have a profound chilling effect on speech at the five colleges.

Will Bigham covered the FIRE letter in the Daily Bulletin last week. The Bulletin also posted the actual letter from FIRE, which you can read here.