Cornell Censorship · 22 September 2005

By Joseph J. Sabia -
Filed under: New York, Press Coverage

By Joseph J. Sabia - - 09/23/05

For the third time in three years, the Cornell University administration is on the warpath, threatening to sanction the campus' conservative newspaper, The Cornell American. Last week, The American published a news story describing the empirical link between race and crime, causing absolute hysteria among leftists on campus. The piece was largely based on Jared Taylor's 1999 book, The Color of Crime, as well as crime-related observations by African-American economist Walter Williams. Unable to handle both facts and opinions with which they disagree, leftist students and administrators appear to be plotting to censor the newspaper. Again.

In an all too familiar refrain, the Cornell administration has charged The American with creating a hostile learning environment for Black students. The Vice Provost for Diversity, Africana Studies Professor Robert Harris, wrote a letter to the Cornell Daily Sun stating, in part, that The American article had "crossed the line":

As Cornell prepares to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of its Statement on Diversity and Inclusion, Open Doors, Open Hearts and Open Minds, The Cornell American has once more crossed the line with a scurrilous story that violates the call for "constructive engagement without degrading, abusing, harassing or silencing others."…Hasty, erroneous, and sweeping generalizations like [American writer Chris] Menzel's serve more to incite bigotry than to solve the problem.

What the Hell is Harris talking about? What "line"? More to the point, who gave him the authority to draw lines that the U.S. Supreme Court has not drawn? Or is he saying that the First Amendment should not apply at Cornell?

Harris also cited Cornell's Orwellian "Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds" policy, suggesting free speech that fails to meet his test of "constructive engagement" was unacceptable. Here we go again. Never in the history of America has "constructive engagement" been a prerequisite for free speech (thus explaining much of today's rap music).

Why is it that conservatives can be threatened, harassed, and censored, all in the name of diversity and inclusion? For example, Cornell American editor Eric Shive was recently thrown out of a public meeting on Hurricane Katrina, with organizers calling him a "Nazi" and a "racist." This is the type of multicultural thuggery that masquerades as intellectual thought among leftist students, university diversity czars, and Africana professors. If they encounter ideas with which they disagree, the solution is always the same: Shut up!

Individuals at Cornell, regardless of their race, do not have the right to an "offensive-free" environment. Life is offensive. Conservatives get offended all the time. But conservative students don't run around trying to censor the opinions of those with whom they disagree. For left-wing university administrators, however, censorship is a key component of their never-ending political harassment.

After The American article was published, Laura Lewis, the Director of Student Services of the NYS state-funded School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), sent out an e-mail by Kassandra Frederique and Shivaun Deena urging fellow students to file bias incident reports against The American:

Stop the Silence!
September 18th -25th

Many students have been upset by the recent articles and images published
in The Cornell American's September issue. Some students are feeling
abandoned by the Cornell administration's lack of public denouncement of
the slanderous articles. It is time for students to mobilize and speak up! Silence and apathy PERPETUATE THE IGNORANCE! Take a Stand! Make some Noise! And fill out a BIAS REPORT!!! Throughout this week organizations throughout the greater Cornell community will be sponsoring programs encouraging students to fill out bias reports against The American. Look out for fliers, e-mails, and posters, to learn how to be a part of this movement against silence! This cause is NON-VIOLENT! We do not support vandalism of Cornell property. We must conduct ourselves with respect for all people.

~Kassandra Frederique and Shivaun Deena
" It's not a white thing, black thing, girl thing, or gay's a HUMAN thing!"

While it is nice to see Kassandra and Shivaun call for non-violent protest (WITH CAPITAL LETTERS), the use of "bias incident reports" to shut down a conservative publication is outrageous. The goal of these reports is to pressure Day Hall into sanctioning The American for publishing politically unpopular articles.

If Kassandra and Shivaun do not like The American's content, they should write letters-to-the-editor or put out their own newspaper. The answer to speech with which one disagrees is not censorship, but more speech, better speech. But one senses that it is easier for the Kassandras and Shivauns of the world to whine about oppression and call for censorship than actually engage in the marketplace of ideas.

Perhaps it would not be so bad if The American's attackers were simply limited to a belligerent Africana studies professor and a couple of whiney students. But there is more. The Dean of the ILR School took the unprecedented step of sending a public letter to all students in the college denouncing The American as a racist publication:

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Dean Katz's statement on The Cornell American
From: "Laura Lewis"
Date: Wed, September 21, 2005 11:20 am
To: "ILR_06-L"

Dear ILR Students:

I want you to know that I find the contents of the Cornell American, a
newspaper circulating around ILR, as bigoted and illogical. This
newspaper is inconsistent with the inclusiveness and thoughtfulness that
we strive for at Cornell University. In your interactions with fellow
students, I encourage you to approach the issues raised by this
publication with the open discourse and sense of community that are
characteristic of the ILR School.


Dean Harry Katz

While Dr. Katz certainly has every right to express his personal point of view, his statement is extraordinary in that no Cornell dean has ever publicly demonized the political opinions of students on the Left. In fact, no dean has ever publicly demonized the illegal activities of students on the Left. And Cornell leftists have a long history of lawbreaking. These actions include, but are not limited to, the 1969 armed Willard Straight Hall takeover, the violent 1993 Day Hall takeover, and the 1997 Cornell Review burning. No dean has ever said a word about any of this. Ever. But now, because deans, administrators, and professors are under pressure from radical pro-censorship students, they squeal.

In a hastily scheduled meeting with Cornell American Publisher Michael Hint, Vice President for Communications Tommy Bruce and Dean Kent Hubbel accused The American of "inciting people" with their "bad journalism." Bruce and Hubbel demanded a public apology or retraction in short order. According to Hint, failure to sufficiently grovel would result in further sanctions.

In another outrageous move, Vice President Bruce's office ordered The Cornell American staff to appear in Day Hall for a meeting on 36 hours notice. No agenda was produced, nor were the procedures for legal representation outlined. Rather, Bruce's office said it was "imperative" that the staff come to address the "many complaints and concerns of the Cornell community." (Fortunately, due to the intervention of private legal counsel, American editors avoided the ambush.) From these statements, it is quite clear that the administration wants the right to prior restraint of conservative journalism.

Unfortunately, the current situation is not unique. Cornell has a dark history of attacking conservative newspapers. For example, in 1997, University President Hunter Rawlings stood by while The Cornell Reviewwas stolen and burned in a Nazi-style newspaper burning. Rather than condemn the criminals, the Review editors were threatened with judicial action and the newspaper was targeted for defunding. Rawlings himself used the occasion of his 1997 Commencement Address to slander The Review as a racist publication.

In 2001, the administration attacked The Cornell Review for inviting Ann Coulter to campus to speak about the Confederate Flag. (At the event, Coulter was pelted with oranges by members of the Hispanic separatist group MEChA.) In 2004, the administration tried to shut down The Cornell American for daring to oppose racial preferences in admissions. And just last year, The American was threatened with defunding by the administration.

And so here we go again. It's like Groundhog Day. My suggested response to Day Hall's latest demands for mandatory meetings, coerced apologies, and forced groveling is the same as it has always been: Go to Hell. Conservatives do not have to ask permission of university administrations before they can offer opinions. Furthermore, they should be free to express themselves without being summoned to emergency meetings with diversity czars to explain themselves. Perhaps Cornell administrators need to be sent copies of the U.S. Constitution. Maybe that will open their doors, hearts, and minds.

Joseph J. Sabia is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Cornell University.