Parentis Goes Loco

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When Occidental College cracks down on speech, it really cracks down hard. Not content to remove the host of a sometimes bawdy student radio show, it ended up dissolving the student government and seizing its funds. By the end of the school year, it was insinuating to outsiders that the host was slashing people's tires and making anonymous threats, though it never actually filed any charges. The student was nearly expelled before the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education came to his aid.

For details, go here and here. Thanks to reader "Mike Mike" for the tip.

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  1. …they cannot punish a student for content that is protected…

    Dylan, I understand that that is what California claims it has the power to do under the Leonard Law. For the life of me, I can’t understand what makes them think they aren’t violating Occidental’s First Amendment rights. I may think OC’s rules are ridiculous, but doesn’t a private group have the right to organize around ridiculous principles? Perhaps a school that receives aid from the state, or accepts students getting state aid, would be obligated to obey this law, but I couldn’t find any sign of that. The law does allow for a free exercise of religion exception.

    Reason is based on the Left Coast. Does someone out there know more about this law?

    Kevin

  2. What a PC cock up of a simple problem. Who was advising these bozos besides a “Title IX officer” whose job depends on finding discrimination/harrassment under every rock?

    The college is the licensee for the radio station and is legally responsible for the content that is broadcast. It can be fined or have its license revoked for indecent broadcasts. If this principle was ever in doubt it was settled 30 years ago in an FCC case against the University of Pennsylvania over indecent broadcasting. In the current climate at the FCC (post Janet Jackson) no responsible college administrator could fail to be concerned about the possible legal repercussions of this sort of “shock jock” behavior.

    More to the point, the college as station owner and licensee has every right to set its own standards for the content of its programming. If it doesn’t want to broadcast the kind of offensive drivel this clown was spouting it has every right to take him off the air. Just like they could take the classical music program off the air and play Hip Hop instead. The fact that you have a constitutional right to play clasical music does not mean you have a constitutional right to play it on my radio station. Same with vulgar and offensive language. Constitutional rights, sexual harrassment etc don’t enter the matter. My station, my content.

    Simple solution. Take loudmouth off the air. Play Bruce Springstein instead. Does this occur to these bozos? No. Congratulations on making a federal case and a national scandel out of program selection at a jerkwater radio station. As I used to say when I was in private practice: You want to get sued, be my guest. I’m in the suing business and I have kids to support.

  3. From what I know about the law it states, basically, that any any speech protections you have at a public college, you have at a private college. Period. Here is the law:

    ?California Education Code 94367. (a) No private postsecondary educational institution shall make or enforce any rule subjecting any student to disciplinary sanctions solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside the campus or facility of a private postsecondary institution, is protected from governmental restriction by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 2 of Article 1 of the California Constitution??

    Also should note that Occidental gets funds from the government through financial aid, plus grants for research.

  4. KOXY isn’t regulated by the FCC, and they have their own set of rules, which were not violated by the broadcast. What the college doesn’t tell people is that the show has been on for three years and has always been popular.

    This was a political move by the college. The host held a very powerful position in student government and was exposing a lot of shady and potentially illegal doings of the college’s administration. He tried to get the student government autonomy from the administration, since contractually, we have total control over the student fees. The college has since broken that contract and stole our money.

  5. They fucked up though, if they were trying to avoid attention. The ACLU loves these cases.

    Oxy Student,

    What type of shennanigans was the administration pulling?

  6. Jason Antebi would be the guy to answer with the most detail, Jamie, but here is some stuff I remember:

    1) A senator died the summer before Antebi took office. He was a very well liked student, and good friend of Antebi’s. Antebi wanted to put up a plaque outside of the student government office in memory of the student. The school said he couldn’t, unless he paid like 30k because plauqes are reserved for alum who want their names on buildings. Antebi tried to get them to be reasonable. in senate, Antebi tried to brainstorm on ways to raise money and it was clear 30k wasn’t going to happen. So he wrote a letter to the school’s president and basically said it’s shameful and asked for it to be dropped down to a reasonable rate or he would let the board of trustees know and print an ad in the paper, paying for it out of his own pocket, to tell everyone the deal. The college then said it was a “misunderstanding,” and allowed the plauqe.

    2) Antebi lobbyed the school to get cable tv (he made a committee, contacted donors, contacted providers, etc.) and finally got cable tv to be accepted. The school said they wouldn’t charge students to make profits for the service, but just to recoup the cost. the college then, after accepting the agreement, rose the price for the service by like 5 times, and again, jason exposed it.

    There was some other more… illegal stuff they did that antebi apparently found out about, but I’m not goign to post it. Let him get in trouble for talking about it, i still want to graduate! 🙂

    What the college did in their response to FIRE (who wrote to them to oppose their sexual harassment findings) was lie and give “examples” or unprotected actions that prevent leonard law from applying. they never expected FIRE to refute each claim, making it so that the leonard law DOES apply.

    What this article above doesn’t mention is that the three students who filed the sexual harassment claims against Antebi is that they tried UNSUCCESFULLY to recall him from office (they didn’t like his political views — they went around saying he was a racist and sexist, in order to get recall sigs, but like i said, it didn’t pass — in fact, it was beat significantly and the authors of the recall petition were proven to have lied, etc.). They then filed the claims against him. It’s a big joke and the college is trying to cover it up.

    I really hope he sues and wins.

  7. I am a student at Occidental too, and a KOXY DJ. I say the same kinds of things as Antebi on my radio show (only I’m funnier), but since I’m not a senator I wasn’t fired.

    One of the issues of this case is that Antebi was a political opponent of the school’s Women’s Center, and the students who filed suit against him were Women’s Center advocates. When Women’s Center flyers turned up with nasty words written on them it was assumed that Antebi wrote them. When tires were slashed in the Women’s Center parking lot it was assumed that Antebi slashed them. There was no investigation into either incident, but the suit against Antebi cites both as evidence for their case.

    And that’s just the physical evidence. Their free speech case makes sense if you believe the following things:
    1) Calling your own mother a “bitch” and a “whore” constitutes sexual harassment to all mothers. Everywhere.
    2) Referring to a student, indirectly, by an unfavorable nickname, but not actually naming the student, is considered harassment of the student.
    3) By challenging the Women’s Center over the air Antebi created a hostile environment for every woman. Everywhere.

    Obviously, these claims are weak. Thankfully, the ACLU and FIRE think so too.

  8. I am willing to stipulate that the administrators at Oxy use their ears to massage their intestines. It also seems that they targeted Jason because of his views on campus politics. Shame on them. I still don’t get why the State of California can make thir bad behavior illegal. Does the State – and not the Feds, mind you – subsidize the college or its students? If they don’t, a challenge to the Leonard Law seems plausible.

    Kevin

  9. kevin,
    Students get cal grants to attend this college. Does that count?

    and i’m glad there is a law. it prevents any groups from opressing certain views. this school promotes itself as promoting diversity — should that not extend to diversity of thought?

  10. For an old Reason piece about Leonard laws, go here.

  11. I can’t help but notice that the “Oxy Student” above is using the email address “libertarian@oxy.edu”, which according to this list:
    http://departments.oxy.edu/studentlife/clubs/list.html

    is the contact address for Occidental Libertarians, and goes to… Jason Antebi. Adjust your salt-grain intake as appropriate.

  12. He was the president last year, that’s why. As you know, he no longer goes to Oxy so he doesn’t have access.

    It’s an open email alias to members until we elect a new president.

  13. Is Reason Mag and the Reason institute funded by the same org? How much of what the institute does matches what is printed by the magazine (since 2 editors seem to be on!)

  14. Mike: The Reason Foundation has two divisions, Reason magazine and the Reason Public Policy Institute. Reason Online is the web edition of Reason magazine.

  15. Are they independent of each other as far as what topics are pursued?

  16. For the most part, though RPPI scholars sometimes write articles for the magazine on their areas of experties.

  17. Students get cal grants to attend this college. Does that count?

    I would not make an private institution follow government-imposed rules merely because the state granted aid directly to a student. The federal courts may currently disagree with me. [See GROVE CITY COLLEGE v. BELL, 465 U.S. 555 (1984) @ http://tinyurl.com/5kqz3 ]

    and i’m glad there is a law. it prevents any groups from opressing* certain views. I think that schools, especially private ones, should be allowed to have viewpoints. I’m a veteran of 16 years of Catholic education. Somehow, someway, they managed to turn out yet another atheist. 🙂 While I was a communicant, I well knew there were certain topics about which one might have to tread lightly. Are you familiar with the controversy at some FCC- licensed college radio stations in the late 1970’s, such as New Jersey’s Seton Hall U. (WSOU), a Catholic school, wouldn’t let the DJ’s play Billy Joel’s Only The Good Die Young?
    “..Catholic girls start much too late..” was the offensive line. They also weren’t too pleased with Push, Push, In The Bush by Musique, either. Maybe that kind of control would be covered by the religious exception in a Leonard Law, but couldn’t a non-religious school object on the grounds of good taste, especially if the station is using college resources?

    this school promotes itself as promoting diversity — should that not extend to diversity of thought? This is your best point. They do sound like pluperfect hypocrites.

    Kevin

    *They like diversity of spelling at Oxy? 😉

  18. This is an interesting case… I find myself cheering for FIRE and laughing at the absurdity of Oxy’s general counsel’s claims, but it’s not exactly comforting to realize that a private university’s rights in this issue are virtually ignored by everyone involved, including the university itself. I hadn’t heard of the Leonard Law before reading about this, and I was a little shocked to know that a private universities would have to put up with that. Then again, this is the same state that forces Catholic charities to offer birth control in their employee benefits.

    Damn it. I’m offended by California’s routine disregard for the consitutional rights of private organizations and the fact that a law like this passes U.S. constitutional muster. Now who can I sue for harrassment? Or at least for making my ass so big? (oops… wrong topic) Hey, maybe I could sue for sexual harrassment if I got offended while ‘doing the Han Solo.’

  19. I’m not rooting for FIRE. An organization that claims to support “individual rights” while invoking the Leonard Law should be condemned.

    A few years ago, FIRE rallied to the defense of terrorist law professor John Banzhaf when George Washington University tried to create an anonymous “student complaint” hotline. It was a questionable policy for sure, but FIRE leaders held up Banzhaf–a man who uses his academic position to wage attacks *against* individual rights–as a victim of a civil liberties lynching.

    FIRE, I have come to realize, is yet another group of ethical subjectivists falsely claiming the mantle of civil liberties protector.

  20. My college years were some of the most fun in my life, but Jesus, the campus can be a total vacuum of logic. The reason is that students and teachers have little else to do then make up shit to get outraged about.

    The funniest was when black students started wearing shirts stating “It’s a Black Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand”. Well.. yeah, that goes without saying. You can’t understand totally what it’s like to be a certain race unless you’ve lived it. But those whiney white liberals got their panties in a bunch. They felt stung by a group of people that they, frankly, fall over themselves making excuses for.

  21. Occidental’s actions are even more heinous than those of SMU regarding the affirmative action cookie sale last year.

  22. Man, this is a perfect example of nobody being right.

    There shouldn’t be any Title IX officers.
    How is the “Leonard Law,” as applied to a private institution, constitutional? It doesn’t seem to be a string that comes with state funding. See:

    http://www.yaf.org/activists/leonard_law.html

    Is freedom of association so dead as a first amendment right that a state legislature can infringe on it by a mere statute?

    Antebi’s junior Howard Stern act, while crude and rude, shouldn’t be made illegal, but by what warped standard does a private college have to supply a radio platform for such speech? The program director or GM of the station should have just suspended the wayward jock, and impressed upon him what was permitted and what was off-limits before he was allowed back on air. BTW, Googling up KOXY yields the info that it isn’t a broadcaster, but a “leaky FM” operation, a step up from the carrier current AMer I dj’ed on in college, but probably not an FCC-approved operation. Kudos to them for slipping around the regs, but as their signal is confined to campus buildings, and webstreaming through the college’s servers, KOXY’s very existence is dependent on the college administration. Yet another example where it would have been better if the student group had been able to broadcast on LPFM, through an organization independent of the college.

    One thing that has probably not changed since I was in school, is that the number of people listening to a coffeepot like KOXY is probably so small that any harm Antebi may have done on the mike is probably very small.

    Kevin

  23. It’s sad and unbelievable that a college would go to such drastic measures to cover up what was obviously an over-reaction on their part.

    Sexual harassment for all females, everywhere? Please. I read the documents on the FIRE page (lots and lots of documents, but very interesting) and the school just comes off like a bunch of idiots. The Occy lawyer, Sandra Cooper, writes “we do not expect to be embarassed by the handling of this situation.” I wonder if the fact that FIRE refuted every single claim of hers with facts, testimony and documents, and that the ACLU wrote to her telling her to stop claiming they would support her actions… was embarassing for her.

    In response to Kevin’s post… the school probably doesn’t have to broadcast the show, but they cannot punish a student for content that is protected. I read in the FIRE letter that while it’s legally questionable, they did not intend to dispute the firing. But the school clearly broke the law by misapplying sexual harassment law AND then defaming this poor kid to cover up it’s shoddy and baseless findings.

    Does this kid have a lawyer? I would sue.

  24. Who you trying to get crazy with ese?
    Don’t you know I’m loco?

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