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University panel says student parody "harassed" blacks

BOSTON --A judicial panel at Tufts University on Thursday ruled that a conservative campus journal "harassed" blacks by publishing a Christmas carol parody called "O Come All Ye Black Folk" that many found racist.

The decision by the Committee on Student Life, a board of professors and students that hears complaints against campus groups, ruled that The Primary Source was guilty of harassment and creating a hostile environment in violation of the school's nondiscrimination policy.

The body ruled that an editor now must sign all of the magazine's work. The panel also recommended that Tufts' student government "consider the behavior" of the magazine when allocating money -- a statement that Primary Source editors say could lead to de-recognition.

Hundreds of students, including the president of the student body, have signed a petition against the magazine, said Douglas Kingman, an editor.

A black student brought a harassment complaint to the board after the magazine distributed its December edition, which contained the mock Christmas carol lambasting black students and the school's affirmative action policies.

The parody of "O Come All Ye Faithful" calls black people "boisterous" and proclaims, "Born into the ghetto. O Jesus! We need you now to fill our racial quotas."

The lyrics also say, "No matter what your grades are, F's, D's or G's, give them all privileged status."

The school's Muslim Student Association filed a separate harassment claim in April after the magazine parodied their advertisements for Islamic Awareness Week with factoids about brutality in Muslim countries.

Barbara Grossman, a drama professor and chair of the judicial panel, said the case was complicated because it brought the university's nondiscrimination policy and freedom of speech in "direct conflict."

"The Primary Source can continue to print what it chooses, but it should not have the shelter of anonymity from which to launch hurtful attacks," she said in a written statement.

About 8,500 students are enrolled at Tufts, with black students composing about 7 percent of the undergraduate population.

Kingman said many of those students support free speech, but the university is bowing to "liberal activists."

He said the magazine would continue to publish, even if student government cuts off funding.

"We're interested in preserving our magazine on campus," he said. "The one, lone conservative voice we have."

Bruce Reitman, the school's dean of students, said the school is opposed to censoring The Primary Source. Still, he said he was pleased that the committee found a way to reprimand the magazine for writings he said left many students feeling "unwelcome" and "wounded."

"I'm proud of the committee," he said. "I was pleased to see them balance both values of freedom of speech and freedom from harassment, without letting one dominate the other."

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On the Net: http://www.tuftsprimarysource.org/

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