Campus Free Speech

ACLU Now Admits OU's SAE Expulsions Are Likely Unconstitutional

As they are.

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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.