Emerson College suspended its chapter for Turning Point USA's conservative group for handing out stickers criticizing China's government. "Expression Necessary to Evolution" has been Emerson College's motto since its inception in 1880. In 2021, however, the free expression exercised by some students is being stifled.
On September 29, as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports, members of the college's TPUSA branch passed out stickers featuring a character from the popular online game Among Us donning a red uniform embossed with a hammer and sickle. Underneath the character is the words "CHINA KINDA SUS."
In Among Us, players try to figure out the identity of the "imposter," a character tasked with killing the other players to win. When someone displays characteristics of the imposter, other players often say that that player is "sus," which is short for "suspicious" or "suspect."
The stickers suggest China is the imposter and displays behaviours that should make the other nations, or players, wary. While some saw the poster as a clever jab at the Chinese Communist Party, others certainly did not.
According to FIRE, the college's International Student Affairs team got wind of the stickers and promptly released a statement. They claimed that the stickers amounted to "xenophobic weapons" and denounced their existence on campus, claiming that Asian-identifying and Asian-American students felt threatened.
In a tweet, Emerson College stated that "This anti-Chinese messaging is inconsistent with our values & will not be tolerated."
The college launched an investigation on October 1 under its Bias-Related Behavior and Invasion of Privacy policies. The post-secondary institution prohibited the TPUSA branch from hosting events, reserving space, and anything else that might constitute normal operations for the duration of the investigation.
The group defended their stickers via Instagram, pointing out that the message was directed at the government of China, not people of Chinese ethnicity.
Nonetheless, as a private institution, Emerson College is not bound by the First Amendment. However, it has a Statement on Freedom of Expression, which proclaims that "the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of political belief and affiliation, freedom from discrimination, freedom of peaceful assembly, and petition of redress or grievances is not only a right but a community responsibility" on campus. Many are calling on the college to live up to their statement.
Earlier this year, a TPUSA chapter at an Illinois, high school was shut down after displaying the same "CHINA KINDA SUS" image on posters. In their case, the signs were deemed "racist" not only by school officials but Democrat politicians as well.