Joseph Aziz can continue his graduate studies at Montclair State University. The school’s president, Susan Cole, caved to media pressure generated by the civil rights group, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and revoked Aziz’s suspension for making fat jokes on YouTube and facebook about the girlfriend of a fellow student who heckled conservative activist Steve Lonegan during a presentation at the school last September. The heckler who called Lonegan a racist and an American fascist while interrupting his presentation was never disciplined.
The YouTube video of the fat heckler was set to private within an hour of MMM asking the University for the identity of the heckler and if the heckler had also been disciplined.
Aziz declined to tell MMM the name of the heckler or the heckler’s girlfriend.
Cole revoked Aziz’s suspension in a letter dated Thursday after consulting with the University’s attorney.
“While Montclair State never should have issued its unconstitutional gag order in the first place, we commend President Cole for acting swiftly to end the situation once it became public,” said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. “Since this unwarranted suspension prevented Mr. Aziz from attending any classes, we expect that Montclair State will make accommodations to ensure that he can get into the classes he needs as soon as possible. We also expect that the university will make sure that this unjust punishment does not appear on his records.”
Shibley offered to work with Cole on revising other University policies that violate students’s rights of free expression.
“Montclair State briefly tried to justify its decision by appealing to New Jersey’s anti-bullying law, but Aziz’s comments did not constitute bullying under the law’s definition of the term. Even if they had, Aziz’s speech still would have been protected by the First Amendment, which supersedes state law,” said FIRE’s Shibley. “While Montclair State recognized its error this time, several of the university’s policies could still be used to silence student speech in the future. FIRE would be pleased to work with President Cole to revise those policies to comply with the First Amendment, by which all public universities are legally and morally bound.”
Cole should take Shibley up on his offer. She should also make sure the University’s code of conduct is not used as a weapon against students who do not subscribe to her administration’s political agenda.Posted: January 19th, 2013 | Author: Art Gallagher | Filed under: Academia, Freedom | Tags: bleached hams, Fat heckler, Fire, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education FIRE, Joseph Aziz, Montclair State University, Steve Lonegan, Susan Cole | Comments Off on Montclair State President Overturns Fat Joke Suspension