On Friday, a Cornell employee removed the covers of copies of The Cornell Daily Sun located in Day Hall to prevent parents and prospective students visiting for Cornell Days from reading them. We find this to be an affront to our editorial independence. While this may be an incident isolated to a single newsstand, the University must ensure that this sort of action does not occur again.
Though the cover that was removed from these issues was a spoof and the stories in it were fake (and obviously so), they nonetheless provided a satirical take on serious issues that are affecting the campus. The Sun was, in many regards, making a statement, and it was impeded from reaching the hands of those visiting Day Hall on Friday.
While Cornell is a private entity, it nonetheless owes it to the members of the community to uphold values of free speech that are critical to an open and engaging academic environment. The pursuit of knowledge and scholarship only occurs when students are allowed to freely express their ideas and where discourse is free and open. The decision to remove these covers from the Day Hall newsstand went against these principles.
Cornell has violated its own policy that speech should not be curbed. The Campus Code of Conduct states: “To curb speech on the grounds that an invited speaker is noxious, that a cause is evil, or that such ideas will offend some listeners is therefore inconsistent with a university’s purpose.”
Perhaps our content may have offended the sensibilities of parents bringing their high schoolers to campus for the first time, but the removal of the cover should not have been allowed to occur.
The decision is telling, and it indicates that Cornell is more concerned with constructing the image that it presents to prospective students than it is with giving them the honest account of life at Cornell that they deserve. Visitors around campus would have seen the spoof covers on news stands outside of Day Hall, and this should make them question the image that Cornell presented.
This decision, however small, cannot be allowed to set a precedent. If the University removed this spoof cover, the next step would be to remove copies of The Sun that paint the University in a negative light. While we are confident that the University would not do this again, the sort of action that occurred in Day Hall on April 20 cannot go unnoted.
One could argue that this editorial makes a big deal out of a small situation. One could argue that this was one isolated newsstand in one building. One could argue that the content that was removed from the stands was trivial. Regardless, this behavior is disconcerting and cannot be allowed to continue. Curbing speech, no matter the scale, has absolutely no place on a college campus.