There have always been racists in our country and there always will be. Since before the founding of our country, through the days leading to the Civil War, the Jim Crow laws and the civil rights marches of the previous generation, racism has been front and center at times. Although our society as a whole abhors racism, there are still those who are openly racist and those who have learned to be more subtle about it, keeping their true feelings hidden, lest they face ridicule from the enlightened who know that skin color is irrelevant.
With the public reaction over the video showing their racist chants, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma has now learned that racism is unacceptable. Their fraternity has been disbanded by the fraternity’s national organization and banned by the University. University President David Boren has also elected to expel two students who were identified as leaders of the chant. The public anger over the racist chants yielded support for Boren’s decision, but there are those like myself who believe that Boren has gone too far.
When Boren expelled the students his justification for doing so was that the racist chants created a “hostile learning environment.” But today I read an article that seems to indicate the University has backtracked on that position.
NewsOK – The University of Oklahoma announced Monday the hiring of a prominent Oklahoma attorney and former U.S. district judge to assist school officials with an investigation into a racist chant by some fraternity members.
Oklahoma City attorney Michael Burrage said in a statement released by OU that he will advise the university on a “range of legal matters.” Burrage says he’s been fully briefed on the university’s investigation, which is focused on potential violations of the school’s Student Code.
OU President David Boren severed ties with the local chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and ordered two members expelled after video surfaced last week of fraternity members engaging in a chant that referenced lynching and used racial slurs to describe how African-Americans would never be allowed as members.
“President Boren has made clear that this will be a fair and thorough investigative process,” Burrage said. “The investigation by Student Affairs is focused on possible violations of the OU Student Code and proceeding under the OU Student Code. Students on the bus and those students who may have knowledge of the origins of the chant will be asked for information.”
OU’s Student Rights and Responsibilities Code prohibits conduct if it creates an environment “that a reasonable person would find intimidating, harassing or humiliating.”
How is it the two students have already been expelled, but the university is just now gearing up to launch an investigation into “potential violations of the school’s Student Code?”
Can a university’s student code override the Constitutional right to free speech? Some legal scholars have said no.
New York Times – “The courts are very clear that hateful, racist speech is protected by the First Amendment,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine.
Official punishment for speech could be legal if the students’ chant constituted a direct threat, leading a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety, or if it seemed likely to provoke an immediate violent response, according to Mr. Chemerinsky and several other legal scholars, liberal and conservative alike.
But in this case, these experts said, there is no evidence of any direct threat or provocation, and as a publicly financed institution, the university is subject to constitutional boundaries.
It appears the knee-jerk reaction from Boren has served no purpose other than to give the outraged public the pound of flesh their anger demanded. Do not misread my words here. By no means am I defending racist chants by anyone. I abhor racists as boils on the buttocks of society. But when people, especially universities, begin silencing disagreeable speech, that is a very dangerous road upon which to set forth.
When offensive speech, however detestable, is silenced and banished then there is a clear message sent that not conforming to the majority’s viewpoints will result in dire consequences. While banishing racists may seem to be a good idea, suppose the same penalty was enacted on students at other universities for having views that differ from the expected. Speaking against Islam, against homosexuality, for support of Israel… What if these views were used by leftist university presidents to banish students who espoused positions that were deemed to be fostering a “hostile learning environment?” Quite the contrary, the hostile learning environment comes from those on the faculty who use their positions to silence students with views in opposition to their own.
The College Fix – The Young America’s Foundation student organization at George Washington University could be at risk of losing funding over its opposition to mandatory LGBT sensitivity training, a stance that has thrust the group into a firestorm of controversy on campus and prompted some to ridicule its members and accuse them of “hate.”
The GW Student Association, the university’s student governing body, recently passed bills requiring the training sessions for leaders of student organizations. Young America’s Foundation, a socially conservative group on campus that supports traditional values, is seeking a religious exemption.
But Amanda Robbins, the group’s co-president, told The College Fix that the bill does not offer such exceptions.
One student senator attempted to add an exemption for religious groups to the bill, but that measure was not approved by the rest of the governing body, she said.
“We are hoping that by voicing our opinion, other groups may follow our lead, resulting in the [student government] taking our request to heart,” Robbins told The College Fix.
Robbins added she was upset by the lack of tolerance for conservative viewpoints on her campus.
When news that the group sought an exemption from the training spread across campus Thursday and Friday, the controversy engulfed the school, and many students ridiculed the conservative club, calling it names and accusing it of “hate” on the Internet and social media.
Allied in Pride, an LGBT group on campus, accused YAF of “intolerance and a pattern of hate” for inviting former Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative Republican, to speak. The group also stated the conservative club’s funding should be revoked.
If the president of George Washington University deemed the students in the Young America’s Foundation to be creating a “hostile learning environment” and expelled them, would that be acceptable? I’m sure to leftists that would be just fine, but to any reasonable person it would not be justified. So how can anyone justify expelling someone for a racist chant? Label them detestable; label them the excrement of the University, but don’t expel them for offensive speech. Once that begins, it will not lead in a favorable direction.