Punish Harassment


Write whatever you want on your own door. Stay away from everyone else's.

THE FINENESS OF A LINE, Justice Felix Frankfurter once wrote, should not deter us from trying to draw it. So while it is not always an easy task to distinguish vandalism from free expression, harassment from free speech, a community concerned with the rights of its members must try to make sensible distinctions.

The Crimson has always supported the near-absolute protection of free expression. We wouldn't burn the American flag ourselves, but we uphold the right of others to do so. We are repulsed by many of the hateful proclamations of the Association Against Learning in the Absence of Religion and Morality, but we defend AALARM's right to air its obnoxious beliefs. We were offended by the Confederate flag flown by Bridget Kerrigan '91, but we were glad Harvard's administration did not force her to remove it from her window.

But the recent defacement of a Lowell House undergraduate's door clearly crosses the line of acceptable self-expression. You can burn your American flag, but you can't burn my American flag. You can hang a Confederate flag in your window, but not in my window.

LAST WEEK, someone scrawled the word "faggot" on Lowell senior Frank M. Habit's door. This person also tore down two of Habit's postcards--one showing two male dancers, the other reading, "Closets are for clothes and not people." The same standard applies: A college should not discipline you for writing despicable comments on your own door (as the University of Connecticut did last year to a woman who posted a "No homos, no bimbos" sign), but it should for writing them on someone else's.


These anonymous actions constitute not only vandalism, but also blatant harassment. They are threatening, provocative and directed at one particular individual. As President Neil L. Rudenstine has recognized, they are "no longer in the bounds of free speech." They represent "a very different kind of action."

We join the president, the dean of the college, the Bisexual Gay and Lesbian Students Association and even the Council of Peninsula in condemning this unacceptable behavior. If the vandal is caught, he or she should be severely disciplined by the administration.

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