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University of Chicago Threatening to Punish Student for Posting Anti-Mohammed Cartoon?

Does anyone have more information on this story from the Chicago Maroon, the student paper?

A student in Hoover House faces possible disciplinary action from the University after posting a cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad on a dormitory door. The incident, which occurred early last week, follows the recent expulsion of two students from Hitchcock House after one wrote racist and anti-Semitic remarks on the other's whiteboard.

The drawing in Hoover featured a crudely sketched figure accompanied by the caption "Mo' Mohammed, Mo' Problems," in reference to the recent worldwide protests of the Muhammad cartoons. It was drawn on a sheet of paper and posted on the outside door of the student's suite facing the dormitory hallway.

The student who drew the cartoon did not wish to be named and declined to discuss the incident with the Maroon, citing the ongoing investigation by the Housing Office.

Those familiar with the situation said a complaint was raised shortly after the illustration went up. According to a first-year Hoover resident who also declined to be named, a neighbor left a written objection on the suite door, and Andrea Gates, Hoover Resident Head, was notified of the drawing. The student who drew the cartoon took it down after receiving the complaint and issued a written apology to the offended resident at Gates's request. . . .

The student was "told [by the University's Housing Office] there's a possibility he'll get kicked out of housing," the first-year resident added. . . .

The Student Manual of University Policies and Regulations addresses this type of incident. It states that the University does "not attempt to shield people from ideas that they may find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even offensive. Nor, as a general rule, does the University intervene to enforce social standards of civility."

Yet some students feel that this incident goes beyond freedom of expression.

Hasan Ali, a fourth-year in the College and president of the Muslim Students' Association, noted the difference between freedom of speech and freedom from responsibility. He compared the cartoon to the drawing of a swastika, noting that such an image "is free speech but is still wrong." . . .

So now every criticism of Mohammed -- or of Islam -- is comparable to a swastika? Or is it that every depiction of Mohammed is comparable to a swastika? Sounds like a reason to protect swastikas, not to suppress criticisms of a religion.

I hope that, despite the assertions reported in the story, the administration is not seriously trying to punish the cartoonist, or even insisting that students stop posting such cartoons. But, as I said, I'd love to hear more from people who know more about how accurate and complete the story is.

Thanks to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for the pointer.

SimonD (www):
The longer this ridiculous overreaction goes on, the harder it is - even for people who consider themselves rational, sane people - to wonder if maybe Ann Coulter hasn't had a point all along.
2.22.2006 8:22pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
(1) What's up with both students (??) getting expelled after one put anti-Semitic and racist comments on the other's door?
(2) There is obviously a difference between putting, say, a swastika on a Jewish student's door and putting a Mohammed cartoon on your own door, even given the assumption that the two are equivalent insults. Putting a negative Mohammed cartoon on a Muslim students' door, I think, would be punishable because it's a direct insult to that student, assuming that was the intent.
2.22.2006 8:55pm
Ubertrout (mail) (www):
The "Mohammed, Mo' Problems" line was taken from The Daily Show. It's a heading near the beginning of the "Blame that Toon" bit available here.
2.22.2006 8:58pm
jvarisco:
From what I've heard (as an undergrad at Chicago), the incident is considered settled by housing. They are not taking further disciplinary action.

I don't see the problem with the cartoons myself, but in Chicago's defense it is true that they can regulate dorms however they like, and making students feel comfortable in their residence is certainly a priority. It doesn't appear that anyone in the administration outside of Hoover house (which has around 100 students I would imagine) was involved much if at all. The cartoons may not always be comparable to a swastika, but right now many people are quite sensitive to the issue; it's really not a good time to push it.
2.22.2006 9:06pm
Wintermute (www):
EV, good leadership.

I let Ann Coulter send me her columns, and the one I got today doesn't suck as bad, knocks Bush on the ports. She obviously hasn't connected the dots to my Boycott Ann Coulter post with its link to an hilarious website parodying her.

DB is right about whose door it was put on, but I wouldn't think it oppressive to say even to the poster on his own door, "OK, you made your point, but this thing should be transitory, not a permanent decoration to a school hallway."
2.22.2006 9:44pm
EIC:
I'd be curious to hear Volokh bloggers' and readers' opinions on the Maroon's related editorial about the cartoons and the Daily Illini editors:

The Cartoons

The suspension of two editors on the board of the University of Illinois's Daily Illini as a result of their decision to print cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad is cause for serious concern about the extent of freedom of the press.

Factual questions about the suspension aside, the idea that a publisher might suspend a student editor merely for printing offensive images is frightening. Whether we support the choice of these editors, freedom of the press is sacrosanct in the West. The media has the right to publish anything it deems newsworthy, whether or not it offends public opinion. In this country, no newspaper editor should ever be forced to self-censor for fear of punishment. The precedent set by the removal of the Illini editors may well make that fear reasonable for the staffs of campus papers. We find this unacceptable.

The circumstances surrounding their decision is yet unclear, but there is only one side any student journalist can take in this debate. We unequivocally support the right of any student newspaper that chooses to print the cartoons of Muhammad.

We have chosen not to publish the cartoons. We think our primary responsibility as a newspaper is to provide news that adds to our community's discourse. Reprinting these images is not essential to serve these goals. The existence of the freedom of the press does not necessitate a moral imperative to use it.

It is our official policy to print material as the editorial board deems necessary, regardless of whether the material can be found offensive.
2.22.2006 10:33pm
Jeroen:
The word "cartoon" is acquiring voodoo-like qualities that seem to blind even otherwise reasonable people like mr. Volokh.

A note on a dorm door reading "More Jews More Problems" would be rightful cause for concern to the administrators, even if the author made a half-hearted attempt at kindergarten drawing on the same note.

It's not always about the picture.
2.23.2006 4:39am
Quetelet (mail):
Just a side-note...4 U of C students just got arrested earlier today for protesting the presence of Marine recruiters on campus by dressing up as members of the "American Nazi Youth Corps".

Some info at: http://www.jbelleisle.com
2.23.2006 7:57am
Justin (mail):
I think the intent here is the major issue. If some person wanted to insult a Jew, but he read the manual wrong and used a star of david rather than a swastika, I don't think that mistake absolves him of the moral sin of harassment (or at least attempted harrassment).

If the intent here is solely to harass, it should be treated as such (though, even in that case, there are legitimate free speech concerns).
2.23.2006 12:01pm
buzz (mail):
You can be arrested for unbelievable stupidity now at U of C?
I assume they did more that dress up as Nazi's? I have heard of the term criminal stupidity, but I don't think that is an actual booking charge.
2.23.2006 3:25pm
Quarterican (mail):
The rules as cited in that link were a little unclear at first glance. But the U of C reserves (and occasionally exercises) its right to expel people from the Reynold's Club (or, I presume, any other building) if they're not affiliated with the University. I've never known for an occurence to require forcible removal, but I am aware of circumstances where people complied peaceably with the request. Therefore, I wouldn't be surprised if the school reserved the right to remove students forcibly (NB: I said forcibly, not forcefully!) if they are deemed to be creating a disturbance and don't comply with requests to leave.

Other than that, I prefer not to speculate since I wasn't there. And especially since I had a fair amount of contact with one of the students before I graduated, and have a fairly firm opinion of him that colors my interpretation of the event. So I'll just shake my head and sigh for the days when Andrea Gates disciplined me for hosting a kegger. Oh, those golden years of a couple of years ago.
2.23.2006 5:15pm
Alec:
David,

No one was expelled for posting racist and anti-semetic remarks on a door (a seperate incident from this Mohammed cartoon incident). One student was kicked out of housing and another was forced to move to another dorm.

It seems to me that the incident had more to it then we know. At least I hope so.

-Alec
2.23.2006 5:34pm
jaqoub (mail):
The muslim kid lived right next door to the person who put up the cartoon.

So what is the differnce between putting a swastica on a Jewish person's door and putting a swastica on your own door?

The cartoon was meant to be anti-muslim and Islamophobic just as swasticas are meant to be anti-semitic. Additionally, the student in Hoover took great offense at the Muhammed cartoon. The kid who wrote the anti-semitic remark meant it in jest and the two kids who recieved the remark understood it as jokes. We should be wondering why certain kinds of racist remarks are treated differently than others.

Anti-Muslim remarks are just as bad as anti-semitc remarks and should be treated in teh same way.
2.23.2006 11:04pm
carl s (mail):
The idea that anti-Muslim remarks are comparable to anti-Semitic remarks is ridiculous: one is a (valid or not) criticism of people's beliefs and choices, the other is a slander regarding someone's (unchangeable and not chosen) ethnic background. Morally they are different, but both are still protected speech in America. Obviously Chicago is not a public institution, but the school policies draw a pretty clear picture of a standard basically comparable to First Amendment protections, at least for University community members.

At this point, how would Muslims at Chicago feel if a student who posted a sign saying "Jesus Christ is not truly God" was forced to apologize and possibly move out of the house for offending devout Christians? Or how about a Israel-supporter being offended at a sign detailing (true or not) Israeli war crimes? These are intimidation tactics used against substantive speech on contentious issues, and these tactics should be condemned by all members of the University.
2.24.2006 12:09am
jaqoub (mail):
The remarks were not a critisim of beliefs, they were Islamophobic. If somebody argued "Islam's stance on everything is wrong," nobody would be offended (this happens all the time and there aren't protest all the time). The remarks were "More Mohammed, More Problems," This is not critism of Mohammed; it is to directly call every Muslim a problem. To illustrate, consider the following analogies:

*Picture of Hitler*
More Hitler, Less problems.

More KKK, less problems.

Those remarks are anti-semitic and racist in the same way the remarks posted were Islamophobic.

BTW, i dont' think devout christians would be offended if you said Jesus is not God. If you said, everybody who believes in Jesus is a problem, they would justifiably be offended. I know this because i have tried it.
2.24.2006 12:18pm
carl s (mail):
"Mo' Mohammed, Mo' Problems" clearly is a criticism of the behavior of those who burned embassies and churches, correct? It's purpose is to note the correlation between believers in Mohammed and violence. It does involve some use of hyperbole, but isn't that the way political speech generally works? Your post seems to say that those who support Hitler or the KKK are all problems; should these sentiments not be stated?

Regardless of the question of offense taken, all of the speech discussed above falls under the free speech policies of the University, and no one has significantly disputed this. The Administration has seriously lost sight of it's principles recently when it comes to free speech.
2.24.2006 5:17pm
jvarisco:
Carl, there is nothing to dispute. The offending student voluntarily removed the cartoon and apologized. It was resolved internally within housing. The only people inside Chicago who seem to think this is a story are the editorial staff of the maroon.
2.25.2006 8:02pm