Campus Reform reports that Brooks Artis, Clemson’s graduate community director, told resident advisers last week to warn freshmen to get rid of “any reference to Harambe (or any other spelling)” on any part of their rooms or hallways that’s visible to passers-by.
The new rule was provoked by someone reporting a meme that was “offensive and bias [sic] in nature,” Artis said cryptically.
An RA told floor residents to enjoy their publicly visible Harambe references until Sept. 30, and after that keep the dead gorilla’s memory alive only within the confines of their rooms. Amusingly, the RA copied Artis’s typo (“offensive and bias”) in justifying the ‘Be ban.
Why is Harambe so offensive? Because he perpetuates “rape culture” and “racism” in the perception of some people (?), and it’s Artis’s job to “ensure that everyone is feeling as safe and valued within their community,” she told another confused student.
While Clemson is not banning “the word Harambe,” Artis continued, she warned that students could be reported to Clemson’s Office of Community and Ethical Standards or even its Title IX office if they made any Harambe reference – it could be interpreted as “bias language against someone.”
She pointed to Clemson’s anti-harassment policy “is you have questions [sic]” about the new Harambe policy (no, it does not mention anything remotely close to Harambe).
In case you’re thinking “this sounds like a blatant First Amendment violation by a public university,” well, you have company. UCLA Law Prof. Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment expert, says the Harambe ban is
a clear First Amendment violations [sic]; public universities can’t suppress displays that they view as conveying offensive viewpoints, whether unpatriotic, antiwar, “racis[t],” “add[ing] to rape culture,” or anything else. … (A university could pick and choose what to include in its own speech … but this policy apparently applies to student speech and not just the university’s speech.)
Clemson backtracked in an official statement Tuesday, saying that it told the recipients of Artis’s missive that it wants them to “feel they are able express their thoughts, opinions and ideas”:
To that end, we want to clarify that building residents are able to post items on their individual doors.
Should you encounter any issue of concern please reach out to your RA or other hall staff members for assistance.
Like the UMass statement, Clemson’s so-called clarification does not answer whether students will still be investigated if someone is offended by a Harambe reference, or whether “individual doors” are the only permitted place to doodle Harambe on campus.
The statement does not rule out students being disciplined or required to complete training – such as cultural competency – if they make Harambe references in certain contexts. The College Fix has asked for clarification from Clemson media relations.
Here’s a brief list of other things that can get you in trouble at Clemson:
UPDATE: Clemson said Tuesday that students were told “incorrectly that they are not allowed to display references to Harambe,” though the statement does not explicitly pledge not to investigate reports of Harambe-related offenses. The article has been updated.
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.