A student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst was asked to remove a "fuck Nazis" sign from her dorm window because it undermined the "inclusive residential experience," which should serve as a compelling reminder that sensitivity culture is slowly but surely morphing into an equally opportunity censor.
The student, Nicole Parsons, hung the sign in early December after an unknown person drew a swastika on a door, according to BuzzFeed News. Parsons thought the university wasn't doing enough to deter such behavior, and decided to take matters into her own hands.
A week later, Residence Director Eddie Papazoni emailed Parsons to ask if she wouldn't mind removing the sign.
"Though the sign is permitted under Freedom of Speech, I would also like to discuss the impact on the community that the sign has had," wrote Papazoni. "There are some in the community who have expressed that the sign should be taken down as it has created mixed emotions in the community on how to proceed, issues of inclusion, and the ability to be active members of their community."
The email concluded with an explicit request that the sign be taken down "so that all students can be part of an inclusive residential experience."
Parsons interpreted the remarks as a declaration that "the university cares more about the feelings of Nazis than the safety of their students," she said.
And yet there's nothing American universities today care more about than safety, broadly defined to include not just physical threats, but also potentially offensive signs, posters, costume party themes, and lecture topics. In this case, Parson's use of profanity appears to have been a bit too radical and edgy. Maybe it actually upset someone, or maybe it simply rubbed a campus bureaucrat the wrong way.
The administration clarified this in a subsequent statement, which took issue with Papazoni's "poorly worded email." No one should have told Parsons to take down the sign, a campus spokesperson explained, "however, we are sensitive to the use of profanity, which some could find inappropriate."
If anything, this incident highlights the coercive power of residence administrators, who are the campus busybodies most directly involved in students' lives, after all. Many universities have begun to reimagine the campus living space as a kind of classroom where students are taught to obey progressive social justice norms, especially those relating to language. I have repeatedly warned the left that souring on free speech—and trusting authority figures to enforce virtue as defined by progressives—is a game no one gets to win. Hypersensitive and risk-averse college administrators don't actually share their goals, and likely never will.