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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Nude doors at Barnard

Barnard College's new policy banning posters, decorations, dry-erase boards -- anything -- on dormitory doors teaches a bad lesson, argues Jodi Rudoren in Forward, a Jewish publication. "If a situation gets too messy, just erase it from view," Barnard is telling students.


"And then, instead of living in a vibrant, variegated community of color and noise and ideas and arguments — otherwise known as a liberal arts college — we’ll all be stuck walking down drab dormitory hallways where all the doors look the same."


The New York City college faces a lawsuit alleging they’ve failed to protect Jewish students from anti-semitism, she writes. "Administrators punted their responsibility to help students navigate the increasingly fraught boundaries between free speech and harassment."


Among the pre-crackdown signs on Barnard’s dorm doors were ones that said “Zionism is Terrorism,” “End the Genocide, Free Palestine,” and “Resist Colonial Power By Any Means Necessary.” Also, of course, “Kidnapped” posters of those held hostage by Hamas. There were doors adorned with kaffiyehs — and Israeli flags.

"Can kids today really not handle walking by signs they disagree with — or even find deeply disturbing or offensive?," asks Rudoren. "Does that mean they also cannot live with — or even near — people who hold those views?"


A friend who's written a book calling for free speech argues that dorms are not a public arena. They should be a "sanctuary" for students.


Drawing a line between speech and harassment is difficult, Rudoren concedes.


At the University of California at Santa Barbara, signs at a multi-cultural center attacked the Jewish student body president by name, accusing her of "genocide," she notes. The university took down the signs and opened a bias investigation, writes Rudoren, but "didn’t say nobody is allowed to ever put up another sign in the student center."


I wonder if anyone at Barnard has ever posted "Abortion is murder" or "All lives matter" or "Sex is binary" or "Make America Great Again" on a dorm door. For that matter, have posters of kidnapped hostages been left alone without being torn down or defaced?

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4 Comments


Heresolong
Heresolong
Mar 08

""Can kids today really not handle walking by signs they disagree with — or even find deeply disturbing or offensive?," asks Rudoren. "Does that mean they also cannot live with — or even near — people who hold those views?""


Short answer: No, they can't.

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Joanne Jacobs
Joanne Jacobs
Mar 04

Barnard didn't want to say "no offensive messages," because that gets into regulating content.

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rob
Mar 04

Doesn't seem that this could possibly pass a first amendment challenge, unless the university is going to claim the that they "own" the doors and thus get to control the content on them...

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markmoss1
markmoss1
Mar 31
Replying to

The university does own the doors.

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