Mr. Philip T. Masciantonio, Director of Broadcasting and Operations

WKCR Board of Directors

Dear Mr. Masciantonio and WKCR Board,
As organizations dedicated to promoting freedom of expression, we write to address a recent incident in which a student producer asked author Laurie Stone to censor excerpts from a work she had been invited to read on Studio A, a program of WKCR, because the excerpts did “not reflect [the] station’s values and more importantly [the] university’s values.” Unwilling to expurgate passages from her work, Ms. Stone cancelled her appearance. WKCR subsequently apologized for the student producer’s actions and declared that she had “misrepresented” WKCR policies concerning freedom of speech. WKCR’s apology asserts the station’s commitment to guaranteeing freedom of expression to its guests and programmers; WKCR “strongly believe[s] in robust freedom of expression.” 
A statement upholding free speech principles, however, rings hollow when actions by representatives of WKCR violate those principles. Indeed, the student producer, in asking Ms. Stone to censor her work, reiterated WKCR’s belief that “freedom of speech and expression are important for all writers,” before telling the guest author that “there is no wiggle room on the censorship.” We urge WKCR to use the incident as a chance to demonstrate in practice its commitment to free expression by re-inviting Ms. Stone to read from her work uncensored and by hosting a discussion on the freedom of expression in student media at a moment of heightened sensitivities. 
As an independent, student-run organization, WKCR may select its guests as freely as any other media outlet. However, as a station that has explicitly announced that it guarantees “freedom of expression to its guests”, once WKCR invites guests onto its shows, it is obligated to allow them to express their own views— not just the views endorsed by the station’s representatives. 
Demanding that a guest censor a story she has been invited to read because it contains views that the producer finds disagreeable demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of freedom of expression. Such a demand not only restricts discussion and debate about controversial subjects, but also creates the risk that listeners will gain inaccurate understandings of guests’ beliefs. Dictating what opinions guests may or may not express is an affront to free expression and entirely
defeats the apparent purpose of having guests on the show; guests are presumably invited to share their insights rather than parroting the producer’s views. This is especially disturbing since WKCR is based at Columbia, a university known nationwide for adopting strong policies in support of academic freedom and for promoting high standards of journalism. 
The incident has seriously undermined WKCR’s claimed commitment to “robust freedom of expression.” Inviting Ms. Stone to read from her work uncensored would be one way to restore trust in the station’s integrity. We also urge WKCR to turn this unfortunate incident into an opportunity to take the lead in addressing the role of student journalists at a time of lively campus debate over free speech, offense, and social justice by hosting an on-air conversation. We would be delighted to help organize such conversation.
Karin D. Karlekar, Director
PEN America Free Expression At Risk Programs
Svetlana Mintcheva, Director of Programs
National Coalition Against Censorship
Eric Alterman, author and Distinguished Professor of English and Journalism
Brooklyn College
Christen Clifford, performer, writer, faculty
The New School
Joe Conason, author
Chris J. Cuomo, Professor of Philosophy
University of Georgia
John Domini, author and journalist
Joan Hawkins, Associate Professor of Cinema and Media 
Indiana University
Holly Hughes, performer, writer, Professor
University of Michigan
Margo Jefferson, author, Professor
Columbia University
Elizabeth Kendall, author, professor 
The New School 
James Lasdun, author
MG Lord, author, faculty UCLA
Mitch McEwen, Assistant Professor of Architecture
University of Michigan
Jeff McMahon, performer, Associate Professor, School of Film, Dance and Theatre
Arizona State University
Daniel Menaker, author and former Editor-in-Chief of Random House Books
Albert Mobilio, author, faculty
The New School
Eileen Myles, author
Katha Pollitt, author
David Rivard, author, Professor
University of New Hampshire
Sarah Schulman, author, activist
Terese Svoboda, author
Sharon Thompson, author 
Steve Wasserman, Publisher and Executive Director
Heyday Books
Art Winslow, former Literary and Executive editor of The Nation