NCAC has written to Columbia University’s student-run radio station WKCR advising the station to make amends for a recent censorship incident.
An undergraduate producer at WKCR recently invited author Laurie Stone to read excerpts from her latest work. However, the producer demanded Ms. Stone censor certain excerpts that “did not reflect [the] station’s values and more importantly the university’s values.” When she was told that there “is no wiggle room on the censorship,” Ms. Stone cancelled her appearance on the show.
NCAC’s letter condemns the producer’s actions and describes how Columbia’s University's commitment to free speech, academic freedom, and journalistic excellence are incompatible with censorship.
Although WKCR is an independent organization that may implement whatever policies it pleases, its censorship of Ms. Stone “restricts discussion and debate about controversial topics,” the letter reads, which undermines Columbia’s commitment to free expression.
WKCR later apologized for the incident and reaffirmed its commitment to “robust freedom of expression.” However, as NCAC’s letter observes, a statement in support of free speech principles “rings hollow when actions by representatives of WKCR violate such principles.” The letter urges WKCR to rectify its mistake by re-inviting Ms. Stone to read her work uncensored and by hosting an on-air conversation about the role of the student journalist at a time when arguments around free speech and social justice can sometimes appear at odds. These actions will reassure WKCR’s listeners and the Columbia community that the station's professed commitment to free expression is, in fact, sincere.
NCAC’s letter was co-signed by American Association of University Professors, Authors Guild, and PEN America. Three dozen professors, authors, and publishers including Northwestern University’s Laura Kipnis—herself a victim of a famous and frightening unsuccessful censorship effort—signed the letter as well.
Read the full letter below; click here for a full screen view.