Do not fine Bexley residents for exercising free speech rights
MIT bureaucrats are again threatening to fine Bexley Hall for rush violations, including a "ROTC = murder" sign ["Fraternity rush slightly down," Sept. 3] in the dormitory's courtyard. The MIT community should not tolerate such an offensive violation of free speech.
Fortunately, it does not have to: the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act prohibits restrictions on free speech even by private universities. Despite assertions to the contrary, attempts to repress free speech by Anthony J. Moulen '93, the Dormitory Council, DormCon's Judicial Committee and other agents of MIT are illegal.
In Abramowitz v. Boston University (1987) the Massachusetts Superior Court ruled that BU unlawfully interfered with students' rights to free speech when it imposed numerous disciplinary actions upon students who had hung signs bearing "BU Divest" and "End Apartheid" from their dormitory windows. The judge stated that the banners "constitute political speech which is entitled to the fullest possible measure of constitutional protection." The judge also noted that students cannot sign their rights away in rental agreements. The plaintiffs were awarded over $38,000 in attorney's fees and other costs.
Authoritarians would have us believe that "special rules" apply during rush, but our rights are not suspended during Residence/Orientation Week. On the contrary, it is particularly important during rush that it is impressed upon incoming students that MIT is a place where a wide variety of differing -- and even unpopular -- views may be freely expressed.
Free speech does not depend upon a committee's whimsical interpretation of some administrator's dreamed-up criteria, such as whether "a reasonable, unbiased person could . . . say that [it was] intended to turn people away," as Staff Assistant for Residence Programs Elliot S. Levitt '89 tries to suggest.
Any attempt to dilute our rights by arguing that some rights are more equal than others should be resisted. This type of reasoning is unacceptable in a free society, and the MIT community must not remain silent on this issue. We should oppose administrators who try to regulate what we say and how we behave, and we should denounce attempts to punish people for not speaking or acting in the "correct" way in public.
Adam R. Grossman '87->