The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an organization centered on civil liberties in American colleges and universities, has sent a letter to University President Richard Levin rebuking Yale administrators for asking the Freshman Class Council to reconsider its decision to sell Harvard-Yale T-shirts that some campus groups considered offensive.
The letter, written by Adam Kissel, the director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, was referring to an incident last month when the Freshman Class Council pulled production on T-shirts bearing the message “I think of all Harvard men as sissies,” a quote from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Leaders of the LGBT Co-op came forward to assert that the word “sissy” was an anti-gay slur, and administrators asked FCC representatives to rethink their decision. The FCC scrapped the design and came up with new T-shirts with a different slogan.
In his letter, sent last Friday, Kissel drew comparisons between the FCC T-shirt controversy and the Yale University Press’ summer decision to omit cartoons of the prophet Muhammed in Brandeis University professor Jytte Klausen’s “The Cartoons that Shook the World.”
“In matters large and small, Yale has taken steps that erode the freedom it once championed, teaching its students that the authorities ultimately decide which expressions are acceptable or unacceptable,” Kissel said. “This seems the very opposite of a liberal education in a free society.”
FIRE also sent the letter to Dean of Freshman Affairs Raymond Ou, Dean of Yale College Mary Miller, the Freshman Class Council and the News. Monday, the letter appeared on the Huffington Post in a blog entry by Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Philadelphia-based organization. (Click here to watch video of Lukianoff speaking about his involvement with FIRE.)
Read FIRE’s full letter to Yale here. Check back soon for reactions from Yale administrators and student groups to the letter.