March 11, 2015

University Violated Speech Rights of Racist Frat Boys

University of Oklahoma violated the First Amendment rights of two frat boys when it expelled them after they were videotaped leading a racist chant. Over the weekend, the school’s student newspaper published a story after it obtained video footage of a group of Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat boys chanting that “there will never be a n—– at SAE.” But the university’s discipline of the students may have just elevated the students to free speech martyrdom. Legal scholar Eugene Volokh writes, “First, racist speech is constitutionally protected, just as is expression of other contemptible ideas; and universities may not discipline students based on their speech. That has been the unanimous view of courts that have considered campus speech codes and other campus speech restrictions. … The same, of course, is true for fraternity speech, racist or otherwise.” But in the nanny-state that is often called higher education, administration officials simply see students as children, whose rights they can violate at will. A better discipline would have been to call out the perpetrators – by name – in the square of public ideas. More…

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