Emerson College “[D]erecogniz[es] TPUSA Chapter After Publicly Denouncing Its ‘China Kinda Sus’ Stickers”

Report by Graham Piro, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

The controversy arose after the group distributed stickers reading “China Kinda Sus” on campus—stickers that the administration, after initially suspending the group, later conceded were intended to criticize China’s RegierungNot its. People. Not that it would matter, as either criticism would still be protected under Emerson’s firm promises to protect freedom of expression, which make no exception for speech Others view as hateful. But the group’s intent didn’t stop the administration from jumping to publicly denounce TPUSA in September for “anti-Asian bigotry and hate,” nor did it stop the administration from then placing a “Formal Warning” on the group’s record, asserting that it had to do so because of the “pervasive environment of anti-Asian discrimination”—by other people.

This would be really shameful if the public condemnations of the group had an effect on its reputation, and thus discourage faculty from working with them.

This is what has happened, and it’s not surprising. Emerson now has removed Emerson’s group from its official status as a student organization. This is allegedly because Emerson cannot locate a full time faculty member who can serve as advisor to the group after the sticker controversy. The group reached out to over 50 faculty members, but received no interest. Multiple part-time faculty members have expressed interest—but they are not eligible to be advisors under Emerson’s policies.

Unrecognized groups do not have “access to funds or ability to reserve space,” cannot use Emerson’s image or likeness, and are not eligible for Emerson Recognition and Achievement awards….

Summarising: Emerson’s administration denounced the group and issued a warning to the group for criticizing China’s government. Now, Emerson has revoked its recognition as no faculty or staff members want to get involved.

The reluctance may be due to faculty members’ objections to the group, its protected speech or the stickers. Emerson recognizes expressive freedom. Individual faculty members have theirs. Own expressive freedom to decline to associate with a group. Emerson does not allow a student organization to be recognized if it is subjected to the subjective approval by any faculty. And that’s pointedly so where the administration has placed its thumbs on the scales, either through denouncing the group—after all, if Intentionally violating Emerson’s policies gets the group in trouble, why would a faculty member risk You can do it voluntarily sticking their neck out and becoming embroiled in further sanctions from the college—or through refusing to assign a staff member to serve as an advisor….

Read the full piece for more information, and links to FIRE’s detailed Emerson letters.