Contested speech on college campuses

Student Press: No Socialists Allowed

At least that seems to be the case at Central Connecticut State University where student journalist, Marissa Blaszko, was apparently  fired last month from the school paper because of her connections to the student club, Youth for Socialist Action, and her anti-war politics. In response to the decision, Blaszko released a statement saying:

They informed me that they were aware I had been involved in recent demonstrations against the Israeli invasion of Gaza and told me that my involvement was a “conflict of interest.” I was allowed to leave the office without being fired, but it was made clear that my activity outside of the paper was being watched…. Nothing else was said about the incident until Tuesday, March 10, when the same two editors called me into the office once more. The conversation was almost identical to the first—the difference, however, was that this time I was asked outright to choose between my involvement with the Youth for Socialist Action or The Recorder…My personal beliefs were not at issue, they claimed, but that I had acted on those beliefs.

An appeal to the college’s Media Board is underway and a petition on Blaszko’s behalf, signed by students and faculty alike, is circulating. View and Sign the petition here.


Finkelstein Denied at Clark

Last week the Boston Globe reported that Clark University has canceled a talk by Norman Finkelstein, Holocaust scholar and prominent critic of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The event, scheduled for April 21, had been organized by Clark University Students for Palestinian Rights, and was apparently being contested by the campus Hillel chapter, a group who mission includes supporting the state of Israel.  In a statement that appeared in the campus newspaper,  Clark University President John Bassett justified the cancellation, saying the speech would conflict with a conference hosted by the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and “would invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding.”  But advocates for the student group organizing the Finkelstein talk have pointed out the conference is not scheduled to start until April 23rd, two days after Finkelstein was scheduled to appear.  Professor Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors himself, was refused tenure at De Paul University in 2007, a decision many believe resulted from his views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Support Freedom of Speech on Campus, and the right of students to organize talks like this one- write to Clark University President John Bassett

Student Protest at the New School Criminalized by Administration, NYPD

Student activism sometimes gets confrontational, especially when voices are not being heard. The anti-war sit-ins and occupations of the 60’s and 70’s, as well as the campus anti-apartheid movement in the 80’s often involved tactics that were directly confrontational with campus administrators and, as a result, with the local police. So it was not surprising when the NYPD was called in to arrest a group of New School University students who  occupied 65 5th Avenue last Friday to protest the policies of University President Bob Kerrey and VP James Murtha. The scene that followed is now prompting serious questions.  While the NYPD has posted a video on Youtube depicting courtesy officers arrested students inside the building, one local videographer captured some disturbing footage of  NYPD officers aggressively policing outside the building, a video Donna Lieberman, the executive director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, has said raises “serious concerns” regarding the students’ civil rights.

But beneath the debate over the tactics used by police and/or protesters lies student voices seeking to be heard. Writing on the website New School in Exile,  students  supporting the occupation pose a question worth thinking about:

Whatever your views on tactics may be, it is still necessary to reflect on what led people to this in the first place. What are students to do when there is no avenue on campus for expression without being threatened if the administration doesn’t like what you’re saying?

The Lang Faculty Executive Committee at the New School  has  issued a statement saying that the “students involved in the occupation deserve a fair hearing and due process before action is taken against them by the university.”  The students  have also received statements of  support of ACT-UAW,  the part-time faculty union, as well as the Graduate Faculty Senate.

Also in Campus Speech News: Professor Bill Ayers Banned in  Boston

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4 Responses to Contested speech on college campuses

  1. I object to the inclusion of Marissa Blaszko’s situation with these other two stories because it is, in my opinion, a very different issue.

    When I was in journalism school and while I worked as a reporter (many years ago), we were schooled on the necessity of keeping our political beliefs to ourselves and not getting involved any political activities on any side.

    This has nothing to do with whether Blaszko is or is not a socialist — I would hope the university’s reaction would be the same if she went to a Republican rally against taxes.

    There was a time that journalists were expected to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest which appears to be the case in this instance and therefore laudable not condemnable.

    At a time when the newspaper industry is failing, we need good OBJECTIVE journalists more than ever.

  2. Brian says:

    Dear eroticawriter,
    I respect your thoughts on the Blaszko situation, though we may have differing opinions on this one. I don’t feel that a student’s involvement in political activity on campus should necessarily preclude involvement with the student press, particularly when that involvement is out in the open, as Blaszko’s appears to have been from day one. Ideologies are always at play in journalism- what stories get picked up, what language is used to describe a given situation, which voices are highlighted, which are not. This is as true at the NY Times as it is at Fox News. I don’t think the lack of objectivity is as much of a problem, as are false claims of objectivity. I agree with you that this is not about Blaszko being a socialist or not. But it is about freedom of association. (I would be defending the republican who went to the tax rally too!) Some journalists out there may disagree, but I feel she has every right to be politically active AND contribute to the paper, provided that she is able to balance the two. I know this is not a black and white situation, and there is certainly a longer conversation to be had, but it is precisely these questions raised that prompted me to include the story in this column…

  3. Pingback: National Coalition Against Censorship: ‘Student Press: No Socialists Allowed’ «

  4. Mark Lause says:

    How absurd is that bizarre assertion of “journalistic ethics” in this day and age. The media lapdogs the government on almost everything, including the string of lies that took us to war in Iraq…even more eagerly than they did over Vietnam…and, boy, were they eager on that! Or the recent “journalist”-created FOX-sponsored teabagging parties. These “ethics” only apply to people who don’t go along with the designated “line.”

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