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Editorial | Carol went too far, but censorship goes further

Published: Monday, December 11, 2006

Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 13:08

By now, many in the Tufts community have read and expressed justifiable outrage at The Primary Source's "Christmas carol" entitled "O Come All Ye Black Folk." Unquestionably, the carol crosses the line. The Source's characterization of African-American admissions policies is flatly incorrect.

The university gains nothing from admitting unqualified students of any race. To build and sustain a top-level university, the admissions office must strive to admit the best quality students of any and every race. The implicit characterization that black students are admitted solely based on race (even with grades of "F's, D's and G's") is just untrue.

At last night's meeting of the TCU Senate, the Tufts community discussed the piece, and the editors of The Primary Source agreed their language was incorrect. But, as the discussion continued, further comments by Source staff made many question how the publication will change as a result of this controversy.

Therefore, we call on The Primary Source to ensure it will not publish such inflammatory and insensitive material in the future by creating a policy against it.

The Source's lack of judgment damages its credibility and marginalizes the conservative movement on campus. As a platform for conservatives, the Source ought to be especially concerned with its perception. By charting a new course from the fallout over this carol and resolving to forbid all bigotry and racial insensitivity from its pages in the future, the Source can credibly return to its mission of being Tufts' conservative media outlet.

The fact that the Source deemed the carol press-worthy is the most startling issue of all. The offensive carol is not worth printing in any Tufts publication. There is no use in printing or even thinking tired stereotypes and mistruths about African-Americans.

The Source's writing and publication of this carol have done nothing to address the core issue of Affirmative Action, as it had hoped. Instead, it just provoked outrage and dismay at the Source and made the magazine itself the issue and not African-American admissions. The carol's publication is counterproductive for the exercise of free speech, and it treads dangerously close to the line separating free speech from hate speech.

Yet attempts to censor, silence or defund the Source go too far. The Daily may vehemently disagree with the carol in question, but steadfastly upholds the right of the Source, or any campus publication, to free speech.

A free college press is not only central to the exchange of ideas inherent in a liberal arts education, but also robustly supported by decades of case law and policy decisions at the local, state and national levels.

Were the university to single out and shut down certain opinions, it would set a dangerous precedent for on campus media. If publications do not have the right to print any reasonable views without censorship, then there is no point in having campus press.

The Primary Source has the right to write and publish the conservative viewpoint on issues relevant to Tufts and beyond.

On an overwhelmingly liberal campus, voicing a conservative opinion is hard enough. By eliminating university funding, expressing conservative views with the goal of ideological balance would become even more difficult.

When the Source engages in discussing conservative philosophy, it adds to campus political and ideological dialogue, extremely valuable in an institution like Tufts.

The Source challenges its readers to consider an opinion likely very different from his or her own. To eliminate this ideological voice would deal a harsh blow to campus dialogue.

Along with this right, however, comes the responsibility to use this voice wisely. As the Daily wrote in its editorial last year when the Source published the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that originally appeared in the Danish newspaper The Jyllands-Posten, "Free speech does not mandate, it enables."

The Source can futher its progress in responsible conservative thought through a mission statement to prevent these needless attacks in the future.

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