Campus Free Speech

ACLU Now Admits OU's SAE Expulsions Are Likely Unconstitutional

As they are.

|

OU
tylerphotos / flickr

Earlier today I noted that the American Civil Liberties Union—ostensibly a pro-First Amendment organiztion—had articulated a baffling position on the University of Oklahoma's expulsion of two students for racist behavior: namely, that said actions were the right ones.

But the ACLU has walked back its earlier comments, and now recognizes that OU can't abridge its students' free speech rights, offensive though their conduct may be. "It is difficult to imagine a situation in which a court would side with the university on this matter," writes the ACLU:

As a state-run institution of higher education, the University of Oklahoma must also respect First Amendment principles that are central to the mission of every university. Any sanction imposed on students for their speech must therefore be consistent with the First Amendment and not merely a punishment for vile and reprehensible speech; courts have consistently and rightly ruled as such. Absent information that is not at our disposal, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which a court would side with the university on this matter.  We are closely monitoring the situation and will appropriately respond to new details as they emerge. In the meantime, we stand in solid support of the brave and thoughtful students whose public dialogue on race and the rights of all minority students in response to the incident have embodied the spirit of the First Amendment.

I'm glad the organization is articulating a clearly pro-speech position on the expulsions. There is nothing contradictory about condemning the students for terribly racist statements while still defending their absolute right to express such sentiments.

NEXT: Democrats Are Starting to Worry About Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Was it the local chapter that made the original comment? I think they’ve been known to get into spats with the national organization before.

    1. From the top link:

      However, a spokesman with the Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU said it appeared OU had done nothing wrong.

      “From everything we’ve seen it appears the university has stuck by their commitment to due process,” Oklahoma ACLU director Ryan Kiesel said. “As deeply disturbing as what (SAE) has done, it appears the university is nevertheless committed to insuring all of their procedural rights.”

      1. So the Oklahoma ACLU chapter is either:

        A) big fans of Sooner football

        or

        B) worried about violent mob retaliation/Heckler’s veto among the community in Oklahoma should they actually stand up for speech rights.

        1. Or the person who was called for comment on the article go it wrong and when the organization itself released an official statement they corrected themselves. Though it is the director, don’t know what he was thinking.

          1. That is also a possibility. Especially in a group like the ACLU that generally attracts left leaning types who no doubt consider any violation of PC shibboleths, especially the #1 tantamount PC shibboleth in the American context, a crime worse than murder.

            I’ve merely been working on my Obama false-dilemma argumentative style.

  2. OT from RawStory

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/201…..imination/

    Oklahoma Democratic state Rep. Emily Virgin wants Christian businesses to post a public notice of discrimination if they intend to claim that they have a religious right to refuse service to LGBT people.

    “Any person not wanting to participate in any of the activities set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation, gender identity or race of either party to the marriage shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites,” the amendment states.

    1. Does she want the signs to be in the form of a star?

      1. No, of course not, just a regular warning sign like this:

        http://cdn3.spiegel.de/images/…..9-kgom.jpg

      2. Gay people were hauled away right alongside Jews, you ridiculous shrieking moron. I know the bloated lying psychopaths you get all your information from have you convinced that white christian heterosexuals are so incredibly put-upon in this country, but consider for a moment that the only reason gay people have been oppressed to the point of total ostracism, denial of equal rights, and brutal murder is because of people acting on behalf of Christ. Like Hitler.

        Seems like a sensible regulation to me. The gays need to know where their kind aren’t served. You know, to protect the rights of the people so overwhelmingly in charge that they erect gaudy 10 commandments statues on capitol grounds just to make sure everyone knows it.

        1. Are you feeling ok?

          “but consider for a moment that the only reason gay people have been oppressed to the point of total ostracism, denial of equal rights, and brutal murder is because of people acting on behalf of Christ. Like Hitler.”

          Gay people have been oppressed in many cultures, including non-Christian ones. So that consideration of yours must go straight in the dust bin.

          “Seems like a sensible regulation to me. The gays need to know where their kind aren’t served.”

          They’ll find out when they don’t get served, will they not? They need not even try for themselves, just get the word out there. No need at all to force businesses to put up gaudy signs.

          “You know, to protect the rights of the people so overwhelmingly in charge that they erect gaudy 10 commandments statues on capitol grounds just to make sure everyone knows it.”

          Sure. Everyone’s rights ought to be protected, no?

          1. “Everyone’s rights ought to be protected, no?”

            No. Oppressed people do now wish for an end to oppression. What they want is to exchange places with their oppressors. They want revenge.

            That is what Tony wants. Revenge.

        2. “but consider for a moment that the only reason gay people have been oppressed to the point of total ostracism, denial of equal rights, and brutal murder is because of people acting on behalf of Christ.”

          Of course, in order to accept that, you’d have to deliberately overlook the crimes against homosexuals committed for nonreligious reasons in places like Communist Cuba.

          1. I’m talking about in America, but thanks for reminding John that the problem is international.

            1. ‘Tony’ comes back to corpse-fuck a dead thread once again. And he thinks claiming Hitler acted on behalf of Christ has something to do with America. What a fucking idiot.

        3. Warning – Corpse fucking.

          What if the business per se doesn’t care who they serve, but some of their employees do. For example, a cake business has two makers, one will serve anyone, one won’t.

          Do they just put up half a sign?

    2. I’m missing something I think. Why is it wrong to put up a “No Gays Allowed” sign if you don’t want gays coming to your church?

      1. This is, I think, the problem with letting mob rule dictate what constitutes protected free speech and what deserves universal opprobrium. It’s possible to behave ethically and civilly while retaining moral qualms about homosexuality or transsexuality. Requiring that people advertise their intimate thoughts on hot-button issues (to the extent the requirement should even be seriously entertained) is an invitation to let mobs run roughshod where government cannot tread.

        1. And is also why I tend to think campaign disclosure laws should be unconstitutional…they’re requiring me to advertise my unpopular speech or not engage in political speech.

          1. This.

      2. Gay-friendly businesses have been advertising themselves as such forever. I think that’s more positive and useful in the long run.

    3. I don’t have a problem with this — in fact, I think it’s great.

      The “Christian” lobby in Oklahoma has placed themselves in a protected class via religion. I cannot refuse to serve a religious fundamentalist because of laws he has passed to force me to serve him.

      But now he is asserting a special right to free association that he denies me in my own business.

      Because of that, I hope he enjoys his “this business discriminates” sign along with his special rights.

    4. Or they could just wear a yellow star?

  3. Good for them.

    I’ll forgive their brief racist boner since they realized they fucked up and fixed it fast.

    1. We are closely monitoring the situation and will appropriately respond to new details as they emerge. In the meantime, we stand in solid support of the brave and thoughtful students whose public dialogue on race and the rights of all minority students in response to the incident have embodied the spirit of the First Amendment.

      Can’t much firmer in support of A1 than that!!!!!!!

  4. This is clearly the ACLU of Oklahoma talking. Did they or the national organization make the previous statement?

    1. Nevermind the ACLU of Oklahoma did make the previous statement. Seems they realized their mistake.

  5. How did Robby get stuck on this beat?

    1. Because the lovely ENB already had the abortion beat and Richman had the self hating American retard beat.

    2. Souve is on the Higher Education Implosion beat like white on rice!

      1. I thought they just gave Robby all the stories that would make one look like a racist, misogynist, homo-phobe for staking out a principled position where it concerns speech rights or due process or the like. And only because he’s a cisgendered heteronormative white male, so it’s already assumed that the hates anyone darker than a Swedish vampire or anyone with more estrogen in their system than Zangeif

        1. Zangeif ….

          Nie

          1. Nice. I meant.

    3. Soave is the resident campus-life, anti-frat, do-the-libertarian thing until a better gig comes along editor.

  6. I’m glad the organization is articulating a clearly pro-speech position on the expulsions.

    Um. No it’s not.

    As a state-run institution of higher education, the University of Oklahoma must also respect First Amendment principles that are central to the mission of every university. Any sanction imposed on students for their speech must therefore be consistent with the First Amendment and not merely a punishment for vile and reprehensible speech; courts have consistently and rightly ruled as such.

    This a pro-constitution or pro-law position on the expulsions. A pro-speech position would have explicitly noted that, regardless of whether it is a public institution bound by the First Amendment, the University as an institution of higher education should protect the rights of speech of its faculty and students, no matter how vile or reprehensible.

    1. To be clear, I completely agree with what SAE did in expelling them from the house. It is not SAE’s place to protect speech, but rather to promote an environment and appearance consistent with a good-natured fraternity.

      In contrast, the University in history and hopefully in the future is where ideas are tested. Students otherwise in good standing should not be expelled from their academic pursuits because of their thoughts: it is anti-academic and very bad precedent.

      1. But they weren’t expelled because of their thoughts. Not really. OU, in finding a reason to expel them, straight up said that they couldn’t guarantee the protection of the two students if they were to remain on campus. Kind of like how European governments, and increasingly the American government, kind of just throw up their hands and say they can’t guarantee the protection of those who “insult Islam”.

        1. OU, in finding a reason to expel them, straight up said that they couldn’t guarantee the protection of the two students if they were to remain on campus.

          Especially since the “student”-athletes can roam the campus armed with the knowledge that a violent assault of these students would result in a minor reprimand and a few games suspension.

          And there is also the bit of irony that their speech built up such a frothy rage of anger that the university cannot be sure the offended sect will be able to employ enough thought and agency to resist the desire to retaliate physically. The fact that the university knows deep in its heart that violence against the speakers is the violence that would be incited from this sort of speech almost vindicates the presumed racism of the fratbruhs.

      2. OU, in finding a reason to expel them, straight up said that they couldn’t guarantee the protection of the two students if they were to remain on campus.

        That’s only a problem because OH, like the United States government, had decide to *take on the responsibility* for student safety rather than leaving the responsibility where it belongs – with the student.

  7. I’m glad someone is turning around to face the facts. Just a little while ago, Elizabeth Nolan Brown was crying about a Kansas bill that would ban the “safest” method of getting rid of SECOND TRIMESTER babies (not embryos, mind you.) Maybe at one point she will stop calling it a “safe” method just as I would expect people not to refer to gassing Jews as the “safest method” for murdering them.

    1. Ah the Holocaust analogy: the hallmark of a reasonable argument.

      1. Re: Hugh Akston,

        Ah the Holocaust analogy: the hallmark of a reasonable argument.

        I’m actually pointing out the absurdity of morbidly downplaying the situation by calling it “safe”.

    2. You. Know. Who. Else? …

  8. It should be noted that the state affiliate ACLUs are completely autonomous of the national ACLU, so the views of one should not be attributed to the other.

    American Civil Liberties Union State Affiliates

    The affiliates operate autonomously from the national organization; each affiliate has its own staff, executive director, board of directors, and budget. Each affiliate consists of two non-profit corporations: a 501(c)(3) corporation that does not perform lobbying, and a 501(c)(4) corporation which is entitled to lobby.

    1. Yeah, this is true. I did intake for them (as a volunteer) a long time ago and found that out very quickly. Even today, I bet there are some local groups that would pass muster with the libertarian view of what the ACLU should be.

      1. Some local, yes. The national? Never.

  9. *makes ‘watching you’ gesture at ACLU*

  10. As offensive this may be to black people, I agree.

    However, I’m not sure that being kicked out of school violates someones rights.
    Perhaps losing a job or an apartment.

    The school will try to weasel out of this by saying that those two violated the school policy of bringing bad publicity…which many schools and corporations are putting into their contracts.

    No one should be fired/denied schooling/housing for merely saying we should “hang niggers from Trees”. No one.

    1. It is a public institution.

      They don’t get to make rules in violation of 1A any more than the rest of government does.

      PERIOD!

    2. No one should be fired … for merely saying we should “hang niggers from Trees”.

      Really? If I own a store and one of my sale clerks were greeting customers with “Welcome to HM-Mart. Hang niggers from trees!” I would be in my rights to fire him or her, no? Even if I heard he or she said this on their own free time, if I have a privately-owned business, I should have the right to employ someone at my pleasure, right? As long as the termination of the employment doesn’t violate the terms of any prior contractual agreement, then why should I be required to keep this person on?

      1. In that scenario, even the government could likely fire the employee. They do get a certain leeway as an employer.

        1. In any situation where you think, “well if they were a private ____, they’d be allowed to do that,” is a good time to think about whether the government should actually be doing that thing.

          1. Indeed. I agree completely.

      2. “If I own a store and one of my sale clerks were greeting customers with “Welcome to HM-Mart. Hang niggers from trees!” I would be in my rights to fire him or her, no?”

        Well, hold on a second. What if you were having a sale on rope, ladders, lawn candles?

        1. Shop smart. Shop HM-Smart.

      3. one time I actually suggested to an MTA “supervisor” =

        “Hey, maybe you should tell that guy over there? the one sweeping up on the platform? to take his headphones off and stop rapping “Suck a Dick Nigger Die Bitch Motherfucker” quite so loudly around the platform crowd 4 yr old kids on their school trip?”

        I was told to fuck off and mind my own goddamn business. Tax dollars at work!

        1. That’s just New York for “Thank you, have a nice day.”

        2. Well, let me tell you a story ’bout a man named Charlie….

    3. Re: Alice Bowie,

      However, I’m not sure that being kicked out of school violates someones rights.

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”
      And the Establishment Clause.

      So, YES, rights WERE violated. We’re talking about a taxpayer-funded entity.

    4. If nothing else, you have a property right that is being violated – you paid tuition, how much (if any) of that money is going to be refunded? Or compensation for time lost looking for another school?

    5. “However, I’m not sure that being kicked out of school violates someones rights.”
      It’s Alice; that’s not sarc, that’s flat out stupidity.

    6. The “other” members of the SAE chapter did indeed lose an “apartment” – they were ordered to vacation housing in one-day, mid-semester, presumably after paying both tuition and housing.

      1. Correction: vacate not vacation…

  11. First Amendment issues aside, it takes a remarkable level of stupidity to judge someone based on something as trivial as skin color.

    1. Yet a great many voters did so in 2008 and 2012.

    2. Indeed, every individual should be treated as an individual first and foremost, not merely as a member of whatever particular identity group they belong to.

      But it is folly of near equal measure to ignore cultural, sociological, and behavioural trends in group aggregates. Those trends may be attributable to issues other than the fundamental differences in race or they may be attributable to differences in race. But differences do exist among groups.

      What matters is that one can have preconceptions about white people or black people or hispanic people and still treat every individual within those races as unique and apart from their identity group.

  12. What good is having a knee if you’re not going to jerk it as soon as something happens?

  13. Good. A consistent position.

    If they’d only embrace 2A, I’d send them money.

    1. To the ACLU, some civil liberties are more important than others, it seems.

      1. Yep. And without the 2nd, the others are meaningless.

        1. I wonder about that. I, personally, barely have any feelings at all about guns either way, but I understand the point of the second amendment (I think). It doesn’t really apply anymore though taking on a nuclear armed govt with pistols and rifles would be a bad move.

  14. “Wednesday night ACLU of Oklahoma staff attended a diversity town hall meeting on the University of Oklahoma campus and witnessed powerful and moving testimony about the myriad problems faced by minority students and faculty. Shortly before the town hall meeting, we were encouraged to learn about the imminent appointment of a Vice President of Diversity and hope that this will become a meaningful position.”

    Well, the important thing is that we have MOAR TOP MEN, right? Because that’s why kids sing offensive songs. Not. Enough. Bureaucrats.

    1. “…we were encouraged to learn about the imminent appointment of a Vice President of Diversity and hope that this will become a meaningful position.”

      Such a position is by definition “not meaningful”, but a pandering cipher.

  15. The fraternity itself should be in hot water, as this is apparently not an isolated incident. But I agree that white supremacists need to be heard. The second they open their mouths they begin proving themselves wrong.

    1. The black SAEs seem rather unconcerned

      1. “Lee is one of several African American SAE members past and present who spoke publicly about the controversy that has sullied the reputation of an organization started in the antebellum South that this month celebrated the 159th anniversary of its founding.

        Some of them are the presidents of their chapters. But all of them have one thing in common: They say the racist comments made in Oklahoma do not reflect their experiences with the Greek organization.

        “It was distasteful, obviously,” said Colin Otubu, 20, president of the SAE chapter at Kent State University in Ohio. “I just cannot imagine my former brothers in Oklahoma ? and I did call them brothers ? making a chant like that, considering how diverse this organization is as a whole.”

        Otubu, whose twin brother, Kevin, is also an SAE member, said the chapter’s 50 brothers include about a dozen African Americans, as well as a contingent of Asians, Latinos and Indian Americans.”

  16. I lost a lot of respect for the ACLU last year when they honored Elizabeth Warren at their yearly gala. My boss normally donates to them every year and I used to encourage him to do so, but the snarky liberal emails I got from their representative about the greatness of Elizabeth Warren put an end to that.

    1. i LOST MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO.

  17. ” it is difficult to imagine a situation in which a court would side with the university on this matter. We are closely monitoring the situation and will appropriately respond to new details as they emerge. In the meantime, we stand in solid support of the brave and thoughtful students whose public dialogue on race and the rights of all minority students in response to the incident have embodied the spirit of the First Amendment.”

    Am I the only one who read that as “we support the first amendment but…”

    The real spirit of the first amendment would be embodied in defending the SAE shitheads right to chant racist shit. I know that the ACLU is not one homogenous body, but I can easily see the nationals and some locals getting on board with the ‘hate speech isn’t free speech’ canard. It is infested with progressive liberal democrats.

    The body that should be taking action against the frat members here is SAE. The behavior of those little shitheads has tarnished the name SAE in a very serious way. What would happen if someone misrepresented themselves in order to get into a frat and then engaged in egregious behavior in order to smear that frat? Could they be sued? Could these guys be sued even though they did not misrepresent themselves?

    If I was the head of the SAE I would be trying to figure out a way to bring the hammer down hard on those assholes and make an example out of them. The University? Not so much.

    1. Am I the only one who read that as “we support the first amendment but…”

      No you’re not. See two comments above.

  18. Actually, I’d say their original position is more consistent with the organization the ACLU has become. As a practical matter, they’re increasingly cavalier about defending individual rights.

  19. Actually under the Code of Conduct policies at OU spells out what a student can and can’t do, and they’ll stick to them. I have the rights to go out in a public place and say what ever I want, but if it ends up being treated as hate speech or a hate crime I could very well end up in jail. The same goes here, OU isn’t telling these students they can’t say things, but if they do and it violates CoC they could be held accountable for it. These students are actually getting off quite easy because of the lynching line in the song they could have been charged with potential hate speech or hate crime under US laws, and no what they said is not protected by the 1st Amendment, the US Supreme Court has ruled that speech which incites or insinuates violence against a person or group of people are not protected.

  20. What about the right to get quality education? I don’t like it, when the government makes a feint of taking care of students, and use students’ needs as the instrument, nothing more. There are so many issues and I know that many parents think that current education isn’t effective maybe, that’s why kids are more likely to resort to top essay writing service online than to school teachers). Besides, quality education costs too much. For me it’s a question that if you want to be educated and intelligent, you have to pay great amount of money and sometimes this investment doesn’t confound expectations. And also it’s very important to help kids become intelligent, many sided personalities and teach them to be moral people.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.