Silenced on campus

By HARVEY SILVERGLATE  |  June 26, 2013


Trinity College explicitly promises its students freedom of association on campus in its Student Integrity Contract. Yet in October 2012, Trinity's Board of Trustees unanimously approved a new Social Code effectively banning students from participating in or forming sororities and fraternities.

The new code requires that all "campus organizations" determine their membership on "interest alone" — although academic, professional, athletic, and musical organizations are explicitly, and some might say tellingly, exempt. And, in a provision that seems obviously targeted at students' right to participate in single-sex Greek organizations, non-exempt student organizations cannot affiliate with national organizations that "do not adhere to a coeducational philosophy," and student groups must reach "minority gender" minimums of 45 percent for participation and 40 percent for leadership by October 2016. Those organizations that do not comply (because, for example, interest alone did not provide a sufficiently equitable gender ratio) will be prohibited.

Trinity's flagrant ignorance of its contractual and ethical obligations has enraged students and alumni alike, to the point where Trinity College President James Jones announced that he will step down a year early in June 2014. Board of Trustees chair Paul Raether will also step down, but not without earning Trinity College a 2012-2013 Muzzle Award for treading on freedom of private association.


2012-2013 was another grand slam for Muzzle-worthy behavior at Harvard. Whether they were snooping on faculty email accounts, ordering Crimson reporters to alter administrators' quotes before publication, or requiring all incoming freshmen to undergo "sensitivity training," Harvard administrators took every opportunity to remind the world that freedom of speech and thought are not welcome on their storied campus.

But perhaps the most telling incident of the past year was the Harvard community's reaction to the circulation of a flyer satirizing the school's final clubs. Final clubs are essentially fraternities that operate without official recognition. Many date back to the years just after the nation's founding and have a well-earned reputation for being exclusionary Old Boys' Clubs. The flyers advertised a fake, new final club, called the "Pigeon Club," and offered pointed, though arguably tasteless, criticism of Harvard's lip service to "inclusion" and "diversity," as well as its long and well-documented history of racism, anti-Semitism and sexism.

The thought police on the administrative payroll took issue with the content of the flyers. "Even if intended as satirical in nature, they are hurtful and offensive to many students, faculty and staff," wrote soon-to-resign Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds of the "deeply disturbing" flyers. What's more deeply disturbing than satirical pieces of paper is Harvard's continuing lack of institutional commitment to free speech.

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