Censorship and free speech at San Francisco and San Jose State Universities

San Francisco State University students did the right thing for free speech on Friday when they decided against sanctioning the campus Republican club for stepping on homemade Hamas and Hezbollah flags late last year.

In Flag-Stomping Rabble Rousers Found Not Guilty, SFSU’s student paper reports:

The Student Organization Hearing Panel, or SOHP, unanimously ruled Friday that there were no grounds to punish the club for “inciting violence and of actions of incivility” for its members’ actions during an anti-terrorism rally Oct. 17, 2006.

Also, Associated Students Inc. abrubtly rescinded their Nov. 15, 2006 resolution condemming the College GOPs by unanimous vote last Wednesday. Though ASI President Maire’ Fowler was originally a strong proponent of condemning the GOPs, she was not present for the vote.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if SFSU’s president Corrigan will do the right thing and let students go ahead with the Palestinian Edward Said mural. The National Lawyer’s Guild’s Carlos Villareal writes in Pres. Unfairly Censors Palestinian Students’ Views :

Our position is that the denial of the Palestinian mural is content-based censorship and appears to be an attempt to silence a particular political viewpoint, We fear that this mural is being singled out because of the ethnic group it represents, and that students’ due process rights have been violated. This would appear to be State Action in violation of the students’ constitutional rights and thus actionable under 42 US Code §1983.

Finally, a big controversy over censorship at San Jose State University was averted this week by students and school administrators.

SJSU is holding its 4th annual “Tunnel of Oppression” which “aims to educate and expose students to issues such as racism and genocide by surrounding them with thought provoking images, words and ideas.”

The student newspaper described last year’s tunnel this way:

Each room in the Tunnel of Oppression portrays a different form of oppression or diversity, such as anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, mixed racial heritage and interracial dating, disabilities, classism, the American dream and the spread of HIV.

An urgent letter about attempted censorship from Sarah Morris with Students for Change was widely circulated early this week. The group had been selected, by application, to create a room in the tunnel on the Occupied Territories. In response to complaints:

we have been told that unless we compromise our room we cannot participate. We are not being allowed to present the Israeli occupation from a Palestinian perspective unless we present how Israel suffers as well. Our argument is that this room focuses on the oppression that is occurring within the occupied territories but the university maintains that this going to make Israeli/Jewish students feel persecuted. I further argue that, when dealing with oppression, you are always going to have someone who says there is “another side” and if this were to stop this room, it should then stop the entire event.

Later, Sarah sent a message thanking supporters and saying that “the outcome of the meeting with adminstrators and faculty is that we all agreed that the room should be presented as planned.”