Tulane Launches Investigation of Student Who Defended Kanye West and Advised Her to Leave Campus

Tulane University (where I once taught) has opened up an investigation into a student, Sarah Ma, after she wrote an opinion piece defending Kanye West in his wearing a “White Lives Matters” shirt and justifying comments that are widely viewed as antisemitic.  In addition to the university telling Ma that she should leave the campus for her own safety, Erica Woodley, Tulane’s Associate Vice President & Dean of Students, sent out an email announcing that it was investigating the matter. Woodley stated “While the importance of free expression on a university campus cannot be overstated, words that run counter to our core values impact our community.” Perhaps Tulane cannot “overstate” free speech values, but it is clearly under protecting them in taking this action.

While it should not have to be repeated, defending free speech does not mean that you agree with a speaker or a publication. The point of free speech is that it protects the most unpopular. We do not need protections for popular speakers.

If these accounts are accurate, the question is why Tulane is investigating a student who espoused unpopular, even offensive, views. The solution to bad speech is better speech.

This student has been roundly condemned by many who viewed her defense of Ye as antisemitic. Yet, the university rushed out, after offering the same old claim of being supportive of free speech, to investigate the use of free speech. The message is clear: you have free speech at Tulane so long as it is not too unpopular or deemed offensive to the majority. Here the column “caused much distress” and therefore became the subject of a university investigation.

I have read the column and find many parts of it to be deeply offensive, disturbing, and wrong. Yet, she is not advocating violence or attacking any individuals. She must accept that others will counter her views with equal passion. For those of us who view these tropes to be antisemitic, we can use free speech to denounce the column and the author’s underlying views. Yet, as a Tulane student, Ma expected that she could voice her views on campus without being investigated, physically attacked, or effectively banished.

The question is what is being investigated. Ma wrote an article viewed by many to be offensive. She has a right to do so. If you cannot “overstate” your commitment to free speech, you might want to start by withdrawing the threat of an investigation over its use. If the university is investigating whether the column is offensive and arguably antisemitic, you just need to read the column. The question remains whether the university is barring offensive speech and, if so, what standard will be applied to public comments and publications.

What is particularly chilling is that, in addition to saying that the matter is under investigation, Tulane reportedly advised Ma that she should leave the campus for her own safety.

Ma said that she has received death threats. A campus publication called The Dissident reported that Woodley met with Ma and “advised Ma to leave campus for at least a couple of weeks because Tulane’s administration does not believe she is safe on campus.” Woodley reportedly told Ma that the university could “probably” keep her safe on campus but could not offer even that uncertain protection off campus. So the university is encouraging her to leave campus and study remotely.

It is the obligation of the university to protect not just free speech but those students who engage in free speech. While that may not extend off campus (though the campus police does patrol surrounding streets with student housing), students should be able to count on the university to take whatever actions are needed for their physical protection.

We have previously discussed the failure of Tulane to protect unpopular speech while publicly condemning the speakers. Despite its claim to being highly protective of free speech, the record in recent years shows a growing anti-free speech environment on campus.

Indeed, Tulane ranked 156th in the nation in a recent free speech survey.




97 thoughts on “Tulane Launches Investigation of Student Who Defended Kanye West and Advised Her to Leave Campus”

  1. (OT — sort of)

    The World Economic Forum pushes a collectivism agenda that usurps rights and impoverishes the world. It was founded and is led by a German professor, Klaus Schwab. Its current motto is: We must “master the future.”

    When a power-lusting German starts talking about “mastering” anything, hold tight to the Declaration of Independence.

  2. Mr. Turley, what are the parts of Ma’s column that you find deeply offensive and wrong? I read the column. It all makes sense and at no point does she condemn Jews or say anything that can be objectively considered anti-Semitic. She pointed out that the people who wronged Kanye, or who he felt wronged him, were Jewish. She pointed out that Death Con3 was a misspelling of Defcon3 which refers to a defense program and Kanye’s perceived need to defend himself against Jewish people. We can accept that the mafia is Italian, MS13 is Latino, the Nazis were German, and the KKK is composed of white males. Somehow our country has the emotional maturity to understand that this doesn’t mean that all italians are bad, all latinos are bad, all Germans are bad, and all white males are bad. But criticism of Jewish people is now off limits even though it wasn’t off limits when Ilhan Omar was making breathtakingly anti-Semitic comments every time she got near a television camera. At that time, Republican members of Congress tried to make a rule against anti-Semitism and the Democrats wouldn’t allow it. I listened to Kanye’s comments, or as much of them as I could stand. He did indeed say that in the Bible it says we should literally love our enemy. If Hitler wasn’t the enemy I don’t know who was. It’s very interesting, as an aside, that in a country whose religion is predominantly Christian, most self-described Christians can come up with at least one enemy that doesn’t deserve to be loved. Usually it’s Trump. Granted, I think Kanye was being intentionally provocative, as well as boring, when he kept insisting that he loves Hitler. My impression is that people give Kanye way more attention than he deserves. He’s a talented musician. He should stick to that.

    1. First, you and she ignore anti-Semitic comments he’s made that you cannot explain away, such as “the Jewish community, especially in the music industry…they’ll take us and milk us till we die,” and “the Jewish people have their hand on every single business that controls the world,” and “Like if Rahm [Emanuel] is sitting next to [President] Obama or Jared [Kushner] sitting next to [President] Trump, there’s a Jewish person right there controlling the country.”

      Second, you do not know that he wasn’t purposefully spelling it as Death Con, and he wasn’t talking about defending against a subset of Jews — any Jews who have abused him — but about Jews as a group. And he consistently conflates those two, which is a sign of anti-Semitism. Sizable groups generally have some bad people in them, but as long as those groups also have good people in them (e.g., the group is not a murderous gang), we distinguish between the good and bad subsets. We should not condemn all Catholics because of pedophile priests. Your own examples — the Mafia, MS13, Nazis, and the KKK — have all murdered people; they do not represent Italians as a whole, etc. Only bigots say “Italians are bad” rather than “the Mafia is bad,” and similarly for the other groups. But you do the same thing that Ye does: you object “Somehow our country has the emotional maturity to understand that this doesn’t mean that all italians are bad, all latinos are bad, all Germans are bad, and all white males are bad. But criticism of Jewish people is now off limits,” not seeing that you’re not talking about the subset of Jews who are bad, and naming that subset (like you name the Mafia, MS13, the Nazis, the KKK), but instead talking about all Jews in a way that does not distinguish the bad Jews from all the other Jews. Can you even name a Jewish group that’s analogous to the Mafia, the MS13, the Nazis, and the KKK? Harvey Weinstein is a bad person, and there’s no problem at all saying it, even though he’s Jewish, and similarly for other Jews who are bad people, so don’t pretend that criticism of Jews who are bad people is “off limits.”

      “Ilhan Omar was making breathtakingly anti-Semitic comments”

      She was making anti-Israeli-government comments. Do you understand the difference?

      “Republican members of Congress tried to make a rule against anti-Semitism and the Democrats wouldn’t allow it”

      Actually, H. Res. 1125 (https://www.congress.gov/117/bills/hres1125/BILLS-117hres1125ih.pdf) passed 420-1, with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) being the only vote against it. If you’re referring to some other Resolution, you’ll have to specify which one you’re talking about. I suspect you’re not thinking of an anti-Semitism resolution at all, but of an anti-BDS resolution, and you should understand the difference.

      1. “She was making anti-Israeli-government comments. Do you understand the difference?”

        That’s the go-to lie for defenders of anti-Semitism… “we don’t hate jews, we just hate the people they elect to represent them”. Nobody is fooled by that.

        1. Surely you recognize that one can disagree with some government policies without hating everyone in the country.

  3. The Dean of Student’s remark basically amounted to: “Gee, it’d be a real shame if something bad happened to you as a result of your exercising your freedom of speech.”

    1. Tulane is known as a lefty PC narrative leadership place…but free speech is for everyone or no one… the left thinks they can dole it out if it shamed their marxist soul… the right rolls it’s eyes but does not hire thugs to prevent speakers like the left does…

  4. “Car 54, Where Are You?”

    Somebody call the police.

    Aren’t death threats and threats of bodily injury actionable in Louisiana?

    Why hasn’t the school observed, suspended, expelled, denied access and prosecuted all related criminals?

  5. She should leave school for her own safety basically tells us that the woke people are the people most prone to violence. Maybe another approach should be applied to those who would commit physical violence. How about “WARNING” Anyone who attempts to attack her for voicing her opinion will be expelled with no possibility of return. This response would take only a little courage. But such courage is sadly lacking amongst the bow down to the mob leadership at Tulane. The word disgust is not sufficient.

    1. @think

      Yep. We’ve gone from liberal elites being embarrassed they mentioned the wrong artist at a dinner party to them being embarrassed they said publicly they don’t think children should be mutilated. What has happened to America over the past 30 years defies the imagination.

    1. Anonymous, regardless of what is stated in the report I would bet that they have a pretty good idea of who the leaker is. There are very few suspects. Whoever the leaker was he or she will never be trusted again by both the Justices on the right and the Justices on the left. The leaker will be labeled as a person who believes that his or her opinion is more important than the protocols of the court. It’s not to bright a move in a small world like D.C. Pariah will be the price to be paid.

      1. The leaker could well be a Justice. They didn’t investigate that. Maybe they were afraid of what such an investigation would show.

    2. And now Trump is calling for Josh Gerstein (the journalist to who the draft was leaked) and his editor at Politico to be jailed until they make public who leaked the draft, despite the fact that neither Gerstein nor his editor broke any law. This flies in the face of our Constitution.

      Trump is disgusting. He does not care what is legal or illegal, what is constitutional or unconstitutional; he only cares about what he wants.

      1. He wants to know who leaked the opinion and nearly got a justice killed. I applaud him for calling for action, even though he probably knows the journalists are beyond the reach of the law.

        1. Journalists are not beyond the reach of the law when they actually break the law. But simply publishing it is not illegal, and it’s disgusting that someone who had a sworn oath to uphold the Constitution would propose something unconstitutional.

          As for finding out who leaked it, they should have interviewed the Justices and asked them to sign the same statement that everyone else was asked to sign.

          1. Anonymous – like many on the Left, you take Trump literally, when he does not mean to be taken literally. If he called for Gerstein to be jailed, he knew that there was no process for jailing him, short of a conviction for a crime. He was expressing his ourtage at the failure of the S Ct to find the leaker, and hoping to put pressure on the DOJ to take action. (I share his anger. It is not enough to bury this unprecedented breach of trust.) But Trump’s rhetoric is bluster, not a threat. If you really care about the safety of journalists, you should show actual outrage over the persecution of Julian Assange, whose life may genuinely be in danger, rather than displaying faux outrage over Trump;s “threats” to Gerstein.

            1. Chief Justice Roberts is the one who chose to have the Court’s Marshals investigate instead of having the FBI investigate. It was an incomplete investigation because of that. But that doesn’t excuse Trump’s desire to jail a journalist. And that’s what his rhetoric is: desire.

              I didn’t call Trump’s rhetoric a threat, and I don’t believe it’s a threat. I believe that it’s him showing how little he cares about people’s rights. He only cares about what he wants.

              1. Anonymous – “He only cares about what he wants.” That is almost a tautology. We want the things we care about, and care about the things we want.
                “Wanting” and “caring” are close to being synonyms. But what is the awful thing Trump really wants? – – the truth to be discovered about the leak. He is to be commended for expressing unhappiness with the result of the Roberts’ investigation. But he does not want Gerstein to be jailed, even though he said that. It was empty rhetoric, an unfortunate Trump tick. But overheated rhetoric is hardly rare in our politics. We see it in the comments on this blog everyday .

                1. “he does not want Gerstein to be jailed, even though he said that”

                  You’re free to believe that he does not want Gerstein to be jailed as a way to determine who leaked the draft. I do not believe that. I think he’d be quite happy to jail Gerstein and his editor in order to find the leaker.

                  “We see [overheated rhetoric] in the comments on this blog everyday”

                  Yes, but none of the people commenting here are a former President with significant ongoing political power.

                  Re: “He only cares about what he wants,” it was said as a contrast to “I believe that it’s him showing how little he cares about people’s rights.” I agree that the former is something of a tautology, but the issue is: what things fall in the set of things he cares about? I’m saying I do not believe that people’s constitutional rights fall in the set of things he cares about. No doubt I could have said it better than I did. Another element of this is: how do we reconcile things that we personally care about with those that others care about: when do those groups overlap? how aware are we of the latter for those that don’t overlap? are we able to see others’ cares as sometimes legitimate even when they’re not our cares? etc.

                  1. You are two-faced. Trump gets a bit hyperbolic at times. Who doesn’t? However, that is talk, and he never put a reporter in jail, but some judges have. Think of Judith Miller from the NY Times.

                    The leak from the Supreme Court is heinous and destroys the fabric of our judicial system. That leak seriously threatened the lives of Supreme Court Justices. You didn’t care much about that. The left let the threat of the SC continue and endangered our Republic. Trump’s hyperbolic words are meaningless, but the left’s deceit and actions are dangerous. Think about concentrating more on the dangers and lawlessness from the left.

              2. “instead of having the FBI investigate.”

                Without commenting on who should or should not investigate, the FBI has been criminally negligent in its investigation of political matters. If that is why Justice Roberts kept the FBI out, he is entirely correct.

      2. “Trump is disgusting. He does not care what is legal or illegal, what is constitutional or unconstitutional; he only cares about what he wants.”

        Yet you are disgusting because we noted how you acted when James O’Keefe’s home was illegally broken into by the FBI. They illegally took his data with names and addresses.

        You seem to have a number of names, all indicating a person of bad character. The last one was something like Mr. Duplicitous.

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