With thanks to both Nation columnist Katha Pollitt and a student from Hampton University who called me this morning and would like to remain anonymous, we wanted to alert Nation readers to a seriously under-reported travesty about to take place at Hampton, a historically black school in Hampton, Virginia.

Seven Hampton students are facing expulsion hearings THIS FRIDAY. Their “crime” was distributing “unauthorized” literature criticizing the Bush Administration’s policies on AIDS, Hurricane Katrina, homophobia, the Iraq war and the Sudan as part of a national series of student protests on November 2nd. “Unauthorized” flyers are distributed and posted all the time of course–it’s only when they feature progressive political content that the administration cracks down. This is a free speech issue, an issue of students’ rights, and an antiwar issue!

There are a number of ways you can help but you need to act fast. First, call the school. Let Hampton administrators know that you oppose the chilling of free speech on the Hampton campus. Ask them to drop all charges against the students, recognize the activist club as an official student organization, and craft a free speech policy that doesn’t criminalize dissent.

Here are the names and contact info for key administrators.

Dr. Bennie McMorris, Vice President for Student Affairs, bennie.mcmorris@hamptonu.edu or 757-727-5264

Woodson Hopewell, Dean of Men, woodson.hopewell@hamptonu.edu or 757-727-5303

Jewel Long, Dean of Women, jewel.long@hamptonu.edu or 757-727-5486

After that, please click here to read and circulate a new statement defending the students. (And please join Howard Zinn, Michael Eric Dyson, Pollitt and many others in signing the petition. To do so, email to: youth_students@worldcantwait.org.) Finally, click here for more info on the case. The more you read, the more pissed off you’ll get. Just remember that the hearings are this Friday, so please act quickly.

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World AIDS Day Chat

I didn’t know it until yesterday but tomorrow, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

To mark the occasion, the estimable Moving Ideas Network and Amnesty International are co-hosting an online chat TOMORROW at 12:00est. Titled Violence Against Women, HIV/AIDS and US Policy, the chat–which features four experts on the AIDS crisis, including Nation writer Salih Booker–will focus on the way the AIDS pandemic has brought to light the inextricable connection between the right to healthcare and other fundamental human rights. Click here to submit questions in advance and click here for more info. Most of all, check out the chat tomorrow at noon.