I recently read a story about the debate inside Harvard Law School regarding the establishment of a harrassment policy for the school. The article reminded me of events that transpired at Tufts University during my sophomore year, 1988-89.
During the Fall semester, a male student printed and sold t-shirts on campus that listed “The Top 15 Reasons why Beer is Better than Women at Tufts”. The t-shirt offended a lot of people, and one female student in particular was so offended that she asked the administration for permission to buy the shirts and burn them on the campus quad.
The administration responded by suspending the male student who printed the shirts and establishing a speech code that laid out private, semi-private, and public zones on campus with different rules for allowable speech.
The speech code sparked a debate at Tufts much like the current debate at Harvard Law School. Opinions on campus were sharply divided about the potential effects of the code. In the end, a Harvard Constitutional Law professor (whose name, alas, eludes me) wrote a spirited defense of free speech that, in large part, led the administration at Tufts to repeal the speech code policy.
There is certainly a better way to protect students from harrassment than to demolish the First Amendment. I strongly urge the faculty and the administration at Harvard Law to review the events that transpired at Tufts in 1988-89 and, much as that administration did, reject the establishment of a de facto speech code for the school on Constitutional grounds.
Robert MunnSan Diego, CA
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