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Letter to the editor – Campuses need free expression

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To the editor,

I recently discovered your journal, which is a great resource for the nonprofit sector.

Your recent article “Extremists target campus press” [3/3/03] went to the heart of what makes America tick.

In that piece, “experts” urged that college newspaper editors refuse to accept ads reflecting objectionable views.

Steph Jesperson of The New York Times warned against “offending alumni, trustees, students, and friends of the institution.”

Yet, no form of “extremism” is worse than the denial of the freedom of speech.

Throughout history, the first impulse of oppressors has been to ban free expression. Then along come the guillotine and the gulag to enforce conformity. Fortunately, Americans are still free to differ over politics, religion and science.

Jesperson’s vague standards such as “decency and dignity” can be too easily used to impose an ideological litmus test on ad or news copy.

Are college men and women so naďve that they must be insulated by the student press against unpopular or bad ideas?

Free expression is a precondition of knowledge and we are talking about university settings where critical thinking should be occurring.

The article should have been balanced with thoughts from an “expert” concerning the downside of censorship.

David Brook, Raleigh, N.C.

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