Thank goodness for FIRE: Taken from FIRE’s website in regard to UCSD’s latest censorship attempt

Gabriella Hoffman Gabriella Hoffman 6 Comments

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February 24, 2010

UC San Diego Freezes Funds for 33 Media Groups, Dissolves Student TV, Threatens to Punish Students for Protected Speech

February 23, 2010

SAN DIEGO, February 23, 2010—The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and its student government have violated the First Amendment by freezing funds for 33 student media organizations, dissolving the student-run television station, and threatening to punish students involved in a controversy over a party invitation for an event called the “Compton Cookout.” Student government president Utsav Gupta has explained that his repressive actions were due to “fracturing of the student body on an issue” and “hateful speech.” Further, under pressure from state legislators who seek to punish protected speech, UCSD has launched “aggressive investigations” into the party invitation. After many students came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help, FIRE has written two letters to UCSD defending the First Amendment both on and off campus.

“UCSD is detracting from its message of moral outrage by committing so many violations of the First Amendment,” said FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley. “UCSD now must undo the damage to free speech and resist the pressure to punish protected expression.”

The invitation for the February 15 party, which first appeared on social networking site Facebook, celebrated racial stereotypes, asked female partygoers to dress as “ghetto chicks,” and invited partygoers to “experience the various elements of life in the ghetto.” The party reportedly was a DVD release party organized by “Jiggaboo Jones,” an African-American “shock jock”-style performer whose persona relies on deliberately provocative and offensive expression. Members of UCSD fraternities reportedly were involved in organizing the event.

Last week, several members of the California State Legislature called for the investigation and punishment of those students involved. Among the elected officials urging punishment for protected speech were Speaker-elect John A. Pérez, Speaker Karen Bass, and most of all Assemblymember Isadore Hall, III, who “want[s] names” and suspensions or expulsions. UCSD did not rule out punishment and has announced “aggressive investigations” into possible disciplinary violations.

FIRE’s letter today to UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox points out that the investigation of protected speech is likely a violation of the First Amendment rights of those investigated and urges the school to announce that it will never investigate protected speech.

This is not the only violation of the First Amendment on UCSD’s campus. Last Thursday, student organization The Koala broadcast a defense of the party on UCSD’s Student Run Television (SRTV), including language that many persons on campus found highly offensive. In response, student government president Utsav Gupta took immediate action to shut down the broadcast and then the entire station because the broadcast was “deeply offensive and hurtful.”

On February 19, Gupta stated publicly that “[w]e will only open [SRTV] again when we can be sure that such hateful content can never be aired again on our student funded TV station.”

Gupta also unilaterally froze the funding for 33 student media organizations because of the content of The Koala’s expression, stating that he was compelled to act because such expression was “fracturing … the student body on an issue.” A Facebook group opposing the “mass censorship” currently has more than 1,100 members.

FIRE’s letter yesterday to Gupta and Fox points out that these actions violate the constitutional rights of the organizations involved, not least because the student government, Associated Students of UCSD (ASUCSD), is an agent of UCSD and is thus bound by the First Amendment.

“In the name of protecting students from controversial speech, President Gupta has suppressed expression throughout the campus and has alienated hundreds of students, even those who share his moral outrage at the party invitation,” said Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “UCSD and ASUCSD must immediately restore access to funding for all organizations, put SRTV back on the air, follow the official procedures for handling complaints at SRTV, refrain from investigating or punishing protected speech both on and off campus, and publicly announce that protected speech will never be investigated.”

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America are described at thefire.org.

TAKE ACTION: Tell UCSD to focus on its own message and stop violating individual rights. Send a letter to UCSD officials here.

CONTACT:
Adam Kissel, Director, Individual Rights Defense Program, FIRE: 215-717-3473, adam@thefire.org

Marye Anne Fox, Chancellor, University of California, San Diego: 858-534-3135, chancellor@ucsd.edu

Utsav Gupta, President, Associated Students of UCSD: 858-534-4452, aspresident@ucsd.edu

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Comments 6

  1. Where in the First Amendment does it require UCSD to fund a TV station? Do you know the difference between rights and privileges? Your rights are not being violated. Earn your own funding and start your own TV station and you can broadcast any message you like. None of you were put in jail for your views. It doesn’t even sound like UCSD singled you out. They stopped funding to everything. (Which I am now in favor of just based on principle.) Clearly they need to spend that money on books for the students. About 24,000 copies each of the Diary of Anne Frank, Roots, How to Win Friends and Influence People, the Conscience of a Conservative, and the Bible is a good start. Stop playing with the TV camera and start doing what your parents are paying for: learning.
    Do you understand that the First Amendment protects you from the government throwing you in jail because of your speech? You are not entitled to a TV station or any media outlet. We get it…you guys support racist parties. Have fun doing it. Nobody is required to let you on their website or air time to express this opinion. And as long as you don’t defame someone or cause a riot, the government cannot stop you from expressing those views. UCSD can stop you from doing it on their dime and they can kick you out of school if you violate their standards. I don’t know how much your part-time job at the student union pays you or how much Mom and Dad send you monthly, but if it is enough, start your very own TV station.
    For you to paint this party as a respectful celebration of anyone’s culture is intellectually dishonest. Especially when your last post said it was “obviously meant to be funny”. I mean let’s be honest; the party was a disrespectful way of making fun of a group of people who in your grandparents’ lifetime were legally treated like animals in parts of this country.
    How is the investigation of anything ever illegal? That is ridiculous. How do they know it is protected speech without an investigation?
    You have the right to say what you are saying. I have the right to tell you that you are less of a person for saying it. And UCSD has the liberty to spend or not spend their money as they see fit. If you cannot live with the consequences of your actions, then I suggest a different course of action.

  2. You real can’t take these uneducated UCSD white trailer trash anywhere. This is what happens when more than one of these guys puts their minds together.

    Oh, where exactly was a speech going on? Thats right, no where, but keep plucking that chicken.

    Or as Carri said “It’s a plot by the fundamentalist rightwing party of tyranny called Republicans. They foment hate, they sneer, they make excuses for their behavior and blame everyone else. They advocate the supremacy of their America – a lily-white America. They are scared and frightened becuase (gasp) a black man has been elected to the White House. They are losing conrol and like cornered animals, they are lashing out. This is the national leadership from whom these studants take their cues.”

  3. When Carri, whoever that is, said it, did he also mispell much of it, or is that just a Montana thing?

  4. I will tell you what I have seen these last few days, I saw people from different backgrounds, my children, my brothers and sisters come together in solidarity, and got the message heard.

    This reminds me of a parable from the good book where a Levite and Priest come upon a man who fell among thieves and they both individually passed by and didn’t stop to help him. Finally a man of another race came by, he got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy and got down with the injured man, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother.

    You see, the Levite and the Priest were afraid, they asked themselves, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

    But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

    That’s the question before us. The question is not, “If I stop to help my brother in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help my brother, what will happen to him or her?” That’s the question.

    God bless all my brothers and sister that stood side by side with our brothers and sisters in need, when you saw a wrong you tried to correct it, you may argue the methods but not the reasons. I know God will not discriminate by country of origin, our sex, our orientation, color of our skin, or our religion as men do.

  5. http://beforeitsnews.com/story/20454/UCSD_Noose_Found_Photo_In_UCSD_Library,_UCSD_Racism_News_Shocking.html

    Hey I was wondering if the UCSD’s California Review could come out defending whoever did this in the UCSD library and maybe promote a similar incident planned for the future? Or maybe Gabriella could give us all another civics lesson on the First Amendment and how it relates to nooses? Or maybe explain how it was meant to be comical (obviously) because after all, it’s not like lynching happens anymore? Or maybe the person who did it could post a Youtube video telling us about how hangings are a part of black history?

    There isn’t a whole lot of difference between the previously discussed Compton Cookout and this noose left in the UCSD library. This isn’t a conservative vs. liberal issue. This is an issue of acting appropriately in American society. Sure you have the right, but that is not the point.

    Gabriella, in previous writings you have talked about being Jewish. Before this ever happened, would you have remained quiet if a Concentration Camp Cookout party was being promoted for students of UCSD to attend? Would you have been OK with the UCSD administration remaining quiet and not investigating the intentions of the party goers? Would you have been OK with having a diploma from the same school as the people who organized such a party even if they were just kidding around? I wonder.

    I know that defending rights and the Constitution can make for strange bedfellows, but you are on the wrong side of history here and this latest incident is proof of that. And you only make things worse. Time to stop being Anne Coulter style shocking and start being a Ronald Reagan style leader.

  6. That there was a noose found in the UCSD library would be utterly appalling and unconscionable at ANY time, let alone now. What gets done to one group eventually gets done to many groups. Racial hatred is a plague that spreads quickly.

    Sometimes I wonder if students on campuses throughout the country feel they have a DUTY to be rebellious. Instead of wondering if their actions make sense and support their future plans, at times they seem to act according to an unspoken or tacit standard. Am I the only one who thinks this?

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