Campus Free Speech

Clemson U. Says Harambe Jokes Are Allowed. It Should Tell Its RAs That.

But the university is still going to watch out for bias incidents



Harambe be praised: Clemson University officials now say that students are welcome to post visual representations of the martyred gorilla in public residential places.

This announcement is a reversal of last week's guidance, sent by a rogue residential adviser, instructing students to stop making Harambe jokes because they "add to the rape culture as well as being a form of racism."

A spokesperson for Clemson told The Washington Post's Eugene Volokh that the earlier prohibition on Harambe jokes "was sent by one person and does not reflect university policy." Earlier this morning, the university sent me an email with the insistent headline, "Clemson has NOT banned Harambe memes in residence halls."

Great! Perhaps Clemson should also inform its own residential advisers about the university's commitment to free speech. As Volokh points out:

I would think that Clemson would have taught residence area authorities that they don't have the power just to order students not to post certain messages that the authorities dislike; but perhaps Clemson had done so, and the particular e-mailer just didn't focus on that.

Additionally, it does not seem obvious to me that Harambe-loving students' free speech rights will actually be respected by the university. After all, Clemson still has a Bias Incident Response Protocol that allows members of campus to report each other for saying and doing things that make them feel demeaned, degraded, or harassed. And people in positions of power at the university evidently believe that Title IX requires them to vigorously police potentially offensive student conduct.