April 13, 2006 | National Review Online
Iran Awareness Project’s Stifling Indicates Broader Problem
Authored by Marc Goldwein
I have long subscribed to Johns Hopkins' motto: “Veritas vos liberabit” — the truth shall make you free. So when a group of students approached me for advice on starting an “Iran Awareness Project,” I applauded their efforts. Iran Awareness leader Sammy Chester, a freshman, explained that the group's goal would be “to broaden campus exposure to the challenge of Iran to America and the world, through its developing nuclear program and the domestic conflicts over reform of the autocratic government.” Unfortunately, there are those on campus who care neither about truth nor about freedom.
From its beginnings, the Iran Awareness Project has faced obstacles from some members of the student body. Frequently, the organization's flyers on Iran's nuclear program, right-wing leadership and vibrant, youthful reform movement have been ripped down. In some cases, they were even covered with unstamped “American Awareness Project” posters that accused the U.S. of “supporting terrorism abroad and suppressing human rights at home.”
Daily Jolt users joined in on this Iran Awareness Project bashing, accusing them of being a Zionist movement. These accusations were full of false assumptions, half truths and flat-out lies.
Soon after this opposition began, the Office of Student Involvement rejected the Iran Awareness Project's student-group application. The Project is not the first group to face opposition from the student body, but its rejection speaks volumes about Student Involvement's willingness to compromise our University's principles in order to avoid controversy.
The official reason for denying the Iran Awareness Project student-group status was that they would overlap with an already-existing group, the Iranian Cultural Society. This reason is, at best, paper thin, especially when we consider that not only is the Iranian Cultural Society a cultural (not political) group, but that it also supported the creation of the Project.
Having been rejected by the Office of Student Involvement, the Iran Awareness Project's officers decided to reach out to the College Republicans, College Democrats and Iranian Cultural Society to put on a dinner discussion. “The College Democrats co-sponsored this event,” explained College Democrats President Aaron Glazer, “because we felt it was an important national security issue that transcended party lines.”
Apparently the Homewood Student Affairs Programming and Collaboration Committee (which is made up of many of those in charge of the Office of Student Involvement) didn't agree, as they rejected the College Democrats' funding request.
“The Committee will not fund a program that is sponsored in part by a group that is not recognized by the Student Development and Programming Office,” they explained. This is hard to believe when you consider that their rules imply only two of the co-sponsors need to be Homewood-based student organizations. It's also odd that not only did Student Involvement encourage the Iran Awareness Project to work with other student groups, but also there have been many funded events on campus in which one or more of the co-sponsors was not a recognized student group.
The truth is, our Office of Student Involvement is more concerned with tiptoeing around political correctness than with promoting open discussion on campus. Here students are trying to be involved on campus, and the Office of Student Involvement is pushing them away.
It is understandable that Student Involvement would want to discourage dangerous speech, and I would accept this as a reason to reject a white supremacy group or an anti-gay alliance. But the Iran Awareness project is merely a diverse group of students who want to spread American awareness of Iran's serious danger.
Earlier this week, with help from student groups, academic departments and outside organizations (such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies), the Iran Awareness Project was able to put on a wonderful dinner discussion which dove into some important issues surrounding Iran. This was a great opportunity for students to think and learn outside of the classroom.
The Office of Student Involvement and Homewood Student Affairs should be ashamed of their speech-stifling actions. This is not a question of ideology, but a question of basic fairness. Stifling political discourse is not left, and it's not right; it's just wrong.
–Marc Goldwein is a junior political science and economics major from Merion, Pa.