At U-Mass Amherst, a candidate for student government president was called a racist for opposing a plan to set aside seats in the Student Senate for ALANA, a group claiming to represent non-white students. Throwing around accusations of racism was OK. Parodying the charge — by drawing a caricature of a Klan Grand Wizard endorsing the minority group — may get nine students suspended or expelled. They were photographed standing in front of the caricature. FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) is on the case.
Less than one year after the University of Massachusetts Amherst defended the free speech rights of a columnist who celebrated the death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman, the university has campaigned to persecute nine students who were seen in photographs containing a caricature of one of them as the “Grand Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan. The drawing, which was intended to mock both the Klan itself and spurious accusations of “racism” made during the course of a student government election campaign, depicted the so-called Grand Wizard with his eyes crossed and his tongue hanging out of his mouth. The mere existence of such a drawing led UMass to charge the nine students with “harassment” and threaten them with penalties ranging from criminal charges to expulsion.
The drawing clearly is mocking the charges of racism, says Greg Lukianoff, FIRE’s director of legal and public advocacy. It’s not endorsing the Klan.
A September 27 “diversity panel” including a vice chancellor, several professors and the student government president labeled the nine students the “KKK Nine.”
UMass has charged all nine students with “harassment conduct less than a physical attack” and with drinking at the post-election party. The university “has offered ‘settlements’ that include punishments far more severe than those typically imposed for first-time alcohol offenses, FIRE notes.
In a letter to university officials, FIRE observed that the UMass president defended the free speech rights of Rene Gonzalez, a graduate student who wrote a Daily Collegian article last spring that called Army Ranger Pat Tillman an “idiot” and “a ‘G.I. Joe’ guy who got what was coming to him” after the former pro football star was killed fighting in Afghanistan.