Hampton University Crackdown

, Eba Hamid, Leave a comment

Hampton, Virginia—Seven progressive students at Hampton University who are facing the threat of expulsion will come before administrators in a hearing against them at 9 a.m. on Friday Dec. 2.

On November 2, 2005, Hampton students were part of a student walk-out and teach-in on the issues of New Orleans urban renewal, the AIDS crisis, homophobia, the prison industrial complex, the war in Iraq, and the crisis in Sudan. Hampton University police shut down the event, videotaped the students involved, and seized the ID cards of several students.

The seven students are now facing disciplinary action for posting and distributing flyers, “cajoling” students and holding a campus activity, according to a letter sent out by Hampton administrators. The notice to students from the Administration declared, “you were observed posting unauthorized materials which advocated student participation in a protest activity that had not been registered or approved.”

The threat of punishment for expressing political opinions imposes a severe chilling effect on students. And the reign of censorship at Hampton continues. Students are not allowed to protest against the Hampton Administration’s censorship unless they receive prior approval from the Administration. On November 22, while students were conducting an interview with local Channel 10 TV news, campus police shut down the interview and kicked the reporters off campus.

The Hampton students object to the Administration banning all protests and flyers on campus made without their prior approval. Yet, the Hampton Administration is also guilty of selective enforcement. Hampton students, and groups, both recognized and non-recognized, pass out fliers and put up advertisements on campus every day without ever facing punishment. The advertisements usually promote parties, bars and other venues for alcoholic consumption. But when political activists at Hampton hand out flyers about a social justice-oriented student activity, they alone suffer the threat of expulsion.

Hampton University has a record in recent years of the Administration suppressing student activism. In 2003, a student writer for the campus newspaper, The Hampton Script, wrote an article about the school cafeteria and its health code violations. The Administration seized all copies and destroyed them justifying the censorship because the newspaper put a letter to students from the president inside the newspaper rather than on the front page.

The Hampton students ask that the Administration immediately withdraw all disciplinary charges in this case, eliminate discriminatory restrictions on political protests and distribution of literature on campus, and promise to uphold and encourage the principles of academic freedom and free expression on campus.

Eba Hamid, a sophomore print journalism major, was assisted in the preparation of this article by John Wilson, of the Campus Journalism Project and others.