Reject censorship

Reading about Sigma Chi fraternity’s current troubles the thought occurs to me, that NIU Vice President Jon Dalton and other officials may have overreacted. Sigma Chi’s skit in blackface is widely agreed to have been in bad taste. Consequently some people were offended by it—that is the nature of bad taste. But on the other hand some people take delight in displays of what most would consider “bad taste,” and I think their interests ought to be considered, too.

There is such an audience that TV shows like “Saturday Night Live” cater. I recall a skit in which Eddie Murphy gets himself up in whiteface, walks around with tensed buttocks (allegedly walking like a white man) and discovers the secret fraternity of white people, of which blacks are kept in ignorance. Such skits are in questionable taste, yet they appear on national television. So does Wierd Al Yankovic’s parody of Michael Jackson’s genital-grabbing dancing (to mention another reported feature of the Sigma Chi skit).

Must the NIU community really be intolerant of the kind of material that passes network censors?

Apparently the Sigma Chi skit, like the TV comedy just cited, was all in fun, which makes censorship of it appear especially heavy-handed. Should not NIU rather be committed to defending freedom of speech—to upholding Jefferson’s great dictum: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”?

The fear of hearing certain opinions expressed ill becomes a center of learning. I hope that in the future NIU will return to the great tradition of the First Amendment and firmly reject censorship.

James L. Hudson

Associate Professor