The University of Redlands has blocked conservative students from holding an event calling attention to political correctness on Halloween, saying it would “leave [sic] to emotional and psychological harm to our students.”
The California University’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter had planned to host a mock funeral for Halloween, handing out a satirical obituary saying the holiday was “murdered in cold blood by Political Correctness,” which was “assisted by humorless university administrators, and out of touch liberals who see racism in so many innocent aspects of everyday life.”
The University of Redlands requires students to gain approval from the Student Leadership and Involvement Center before hosting such an event or handing out flyers.
Dan Burfeind, the assistant director of Student Activities, tells Heat Street that he and his colleagues deliberated for about six hours before denying YAF’s request, discussing the free-speech implications at length.
They concluded that the funeral for Halloween was an incitement, Burfeind says: “It wasn’t meant to be educational. It was meant to just piss off students.”
Emily Jashinsky, a spokesman for YAF’s parent organization, Young America’s Foundation, said Redlands’ denial was telling.
“Students are that sensitive, they’re that fragile, that satire can cause that level of distress—pretty indicative of how our campuses have devolved,” Jashinsky says.
Burfeind says the University of Redlands has already been through one big Halloween controversy.
Last year, students in the theater department sold surplus costumes, including sombreros. After some students protested, the chair of the theater department eventually issued an apology in the student newspaper, and the University held a campus forum on race relations.
“There was a lot of frustration that came out of it, a lot of pain,” Burfeind said, adding that last year’s experience was part of the consideration to turn down YAF.
Burfeind invited YAF to instead hold “a protest with a clearer message, like ‘PC culture needs to end,” in one of the “four areas established for assembly,” according to an email he sent to YAF.
“The intent of your protest should be to educate, not to insight [sic] frustration/anger in people,” he said in the email, adding that he would waive the requirement for 72 hours’ notice to allow a Halloween protest.
Jashinsky says Redlands administrators need a refresher course in free speech.
“While Redlands is a private university, its free speech policy alleges to be ‘in the spirit of the First Amendment,’ which, of course, does not ban speech based on whether its content is educational,” Jashinsky says. “Furthermore, the obituary, while satirical, is actually pretty substantive, so this seems very clearly to be philosophical censorship.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.