Phi Beta Cons

Johns Hopkins Update

For those who have been following the outrageous Johns Hopkins free-speech case, FIRE has a new press release out.

After weeks of public pressure, Johns Hopkins University has reduced its draconian punishment of student Justin Park, who posted an “offensive” Halloween party invitation on Facebook.com. The university has concluded Park’s appeal, and he is satisfied with the outcome, but FIRE is troubled that any punishment remains. Moreover, FIRE believes that the university’s conduct throughout this case—and throughout 2006 in general—leaves serious doubts about whether students at Hopkins have even the most minimal rights to free speech and due process.

The Halloween controversy at Hopkins began when Park, then the social chair of the Sigma Chi fraternity chapter, posted an advertisement for the fraternity’s “Halloween in the Hood” party on Facebook.com that some found racially offensive. As a result, Park was charged with and found guilty of numerous violations of university policy. His original punishment included suspension from the university until January 2008; completion of 300 hours of community service; an assignment to read 12 books and to write a reflection paper on each; and mandatory attendance at a workshop on diversity and race relations. In the midst of the controversy, Johns Hopkins President William Brody also introduced a new policy prohibiting “rude, disrespectful behavior” at the university, and published an article in the December 11, 2006, issue of The JHU Gazette in which he explicitly stated that speech that is “tasteless” or that breaches “civility” will not be tolerated at Hopkins.

Read more here.

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