Where’s Paul Revere when you need him?

The Student Judicial Code defines harassment as “intentionally harassing, coercing, intimidating or seriously embarrassing any person through conduct which would offend a reasonable person.” Can this be done by posting one sign on your residence hall room door?

This is what the University Judicial Office seems to believe.

NIU student Tom Ryan was found guilty of harassment of a university official for posting a photocopy of Neptune/Gilbert Area Coordinator Margaret Phillip’s picture on his door with the words “To Tom with love—Margaret.”

According to the complaint filed against him, this posting of an “inappropriate picture” was the basis for his charge of harassment.

Although Ryan could have and probably has done a number of other things to get under the skin of Phillips (like his little innertube crusade in the nude), these things should not have entered into the decision to kick him out of Neptune Hall and ban him from ever coming back. Whether these things did enter into the decision cannot be determined. But based on the complaint, the Judicial Office is saying Phillips was harassed by one poster on a student’s door.

Harassing is defined in the dictionary as “to annoy continually.” In our book, the posting of one sign does not constitute continuous annoyance.

According to Phillips herself, any student who places the same picture and statement on his or her door will be punished in the same manner as Ryan. Phillips is not the queen of Neptune and Chris Waugh, the hall adjudicator who filed the complaint, is not her noble knight. This is the 20th century at Northern Illinois University in the United States—not 16th century England.

We now have something called the First Amendment that protects freedom of speech and expression—that should have a little more pull than a certain area coordinator’s censoring power.

Students in residence halls across campus post a large variety of things on their doors. Some of these things could be construed as obscene or even offensive by many people, but who has the authority to determine what should and should not be posted on students’ doors?

Phillips seems to have taken this authority upon herself. And the Judicial Office has backed her up through its actions.

It’s time to take a close look at this university’s censorship powers. Let’s hope the Redcoatsa aren’t coming.