A little hubbub is making its way around the internet regarding a rapper – a man by the name of Jasiri X – who was hired to appear at an event on the Storrs campus on Nov. 7 but was told in his contract that he could not perform a certain song. The song happened to be about the Occupy movement, called “Occupy (We the 99)” which, according to the Huffington Post, is his most popular song.
A video of Jasiri X appears on Youtube.com in which he vents his frustration at this turn of events. Michael Moore posted the video and Jasiri’s accompanying commentary on his website and several others have picked up on it. The problem: Mr. X is under the impression it was a university administrator laying out this silly edict as a matter of university policy in the contract. The Lookout asked around, and it was not.
This event was actually organized by students – specifically, the Undergraduate Student Government – and it was apparently one of the organizers who told Mr. X he could not perform this particular tune, not the university.
But this nuance, not surprisingly, was lost on people and instead of “UConn student stifles speech!” it was “UConn stifles speech!” Some, like the Huffington Post and ThinkProgress.org, get it right. But the internet being the internet, most others haven’t.
Why did the student organizer(s) demand that this guy not perform this song? Your guess is as good as mine. But if there is any place in the world that free speech should not only be permitted – indeed, insisted upon – it is university campuses.
Often these sorts of things don’t happen because the organizers are sinister people who loathe the free expression of ideas; rather, some try and limit speech in the interest of political or social harmony or to prevent anyone – heaven forbid – from having to hear an idea or expression of ideas that is contrary to their own sensibilities or views. (Note: this is not preventable in real life).
But whatever the reason, cramping speech is cramping speech. And The Lookout thinks that is the opposite of what should happen on a university campus.