Occidental College: Use of Harassment Charges to Suppress Protected Speech

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Occidental College

Shock jock Jason Antebi, a student at Occidental College, served for three years as host of a popular student radio show known for political parody, provocative humor, and frequent mocking of Occidental’s administration, its student government, and various political and social causes. In response to Antebi’s biting on-air satire, three students filed sexual harassment complaints against him, claiming that his show promoted “disrespect and slander” and thus constituted a form of punishable “hostile environment” harassment.Administrators soon fired Antebi from his radio show, and FIRE wrote a letter condemning the college’s actions and pointing out that his speech was clearly protected under the First Amendment. FIRE soon received a response from Occidental General Counsel Sandra Cooper that flatly distorted and misrepresented facts and implied, without a shred of evidence, that Antebi had committed a variety of serious offenses including vandalizing cars and making harassing phone calls. Amid this controversy, Occidental College President Ted Mitchell announced his decision to dissolve the student government, of which Antebi was a vice president. Shortly thereafter, Occidental found Antebi guilty of “sexual and gender hostile environment harassment,” ignoring both the college’s promises to defend free speech and California’s “Leonard Law,” which guarantees free speech to students at private colleges and universities in California. Antebi filed suit against the college for violating his free speech rights. Eventually the two parties settled out of court, with Antebi declaring, “I am very happy with the outcome.”

  • Victory: Occidental College settles free speech lawsuit with wronged student

    October 22, 2007

    Following a three-year dispute and a multi-million-dollar lawsuit, Occidental College and former student shock jock Jason Antebi (nee: Rantz) have settled a lawsuit in which Antebi sued the school for maliciously violating his freedom of speech and due process rights when it fired him and found him guilty of harassment” for jokes both on and off the air. Stunningly, Occidental used this controversy as a pretext to dissolve the student government and began an aggressive campaign of false accusations and distortions to justify its actions. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which took up Antebi’s defense in 2004, […]

    » Read More

  • Occidental College settles lawsuit with ‘shock jock’ student

    October 19, 2007

    Occidental College has settled a lawsuit with a former student who accused it and several of its officials in 2005 of free-speech violations and defamation, among other claims. The former student, Jason Antebi, was a self-proclaimed “shock jock” on the college’s student radio station, KOXY. His show, “Rant and Rave,” was provocative and satirical, but in 2004, his senior year, Occidental officials said he went too far. After Mr. Antebi insulted specific students—political adversaries who had publicly accused him of racism, and whom he mocked on the air as “Vander Douche” and “Sam the Bearded Feminist”—the college pulled the plug […]

    » Read More

  • Ex-‘shock jock’ at Occidental College settles lawsuit

    October 19, 2007

    A former “shock jock” at OccidentalCollege ’s Internet radio station has settled his defamation lawsuit against the college.   But an attorney for the college said Friday the school’s former student, Jason Antebi, 25, of Northridge only won a “nominal” payment from the settlement.   Antebi’s show on the college’s KOXY station was called “The Rant and Rave.” In a March 2004 radio show, Antebi insulted fellow members of the student council while using satirical names for them, including “Sam the Bearded Feminist,” and pretended to take Vicodin, according to a court brief he filed.   Days after that broadcast, […]

    » Read More

  • California Supreme Court denies shock jock’s request for review

    November 1, 2006

    Antebi says he will lobby legislature to fix California’s Leonard Law by Marnette Federis Student Press Law Center News Flash   The California State Supreme Court has refused to review shock jock Jason Antebi’s censorship lawsuit against Occidental College, letting stand a lower court’s ruling that he did not have legal standing to sue the university because he already graduated. Antebi sued the university under California’s Leonard Law, a statute designed to protect student free expression rights at private colleges in the state. In his lawsuit, Antebi claimed that the university violated the law when they fired him from the […]

    » Read More

  • Antebi Files Appeal Suit Against Oxy

    February 15, 2006

    by Nick Velkavrh The Occidental Weekly   Attached Files Antebi Files Appeal Suit Against Oxy, PDF, 269.7 KB , The Occidental Weekly

    » Read More

  • Court dismisses former college radio host’s lawsuit

    October 6, 2005

    A Superior Court in Los Angeles dismissed a former college radio host’s lawsuit, which claimed that his First Amendment rights were violated when school officials fired him for content he aired. The court ruled Aug. 1 that California’s Leonard Law, which gives students at private colleges some of the same First Amendment protections enjoyed by students at public schools, can only be used by students who are enrolled in school at the time they file a lawsuit. The court dismissed Jason Antebi’s lawsuit against Occidental College because he filed the suit eight months after he graduated from the institution. The […]

    » Read More

  • Former shock jock sues college for pulling him off the airwaves

    October 1, 2005

    [This article appeared in the Fall 2005 edition of the SPLC’s quarterly Report.] CALIFORNIA — Jason Antebi is applying to graduate schools and trying to continue his education after his graduation from Occidental College, but he says his censure by the school for sexual harassment stemming from comments he made on his radio show has made that process difficult. Antebi sued the college for violating his rights in March under a California statue that protects free expression at private schools, a year after he was fired from his radio show and censured for sexual harassment over his on-air comments. Antebi’s […]

    » Read More

  • The Chill Is Nothing New

    September 9, 2005

    There is a chill on campus, but that’s nothing new. For decades, campus speech has been chilled by speech codes and other attempts to prevent expression that might offend. Some would like to imagine that the excesses of “political correctness” are ancient history, but repression in the name of tolerance hasn’t gone anywhere. Oppressive speech codes are not only still around—they have actually multiplied, even after numerous court decisions declared them unconstitutional. Within the past year, college students have been punished for such things as expressing a religious objection to homosexuality and arguing that corporal punishment may be acceptable. Students […]

    » Read More

  • Wronging student rights

    September 3, 2005

    By Greg Lukianoff in The Boston Globe As summer ends and college students return to campus, a number of dreadful court decisions may cause them to wonder if their rights have taken a permanent vacation. While the past decades have hardly been a golden age for student rights, there was good reason to be optimistic in recent years. Speech codes fell at colleges from New York to California, the Department of Education finally clarified that “harassment” does not mean just being offended, and Texas Tech University had to admit that its lone 20-foot-wide “free speech gazebo” was inadequate space for […]

    » Read More

  • Polly gaffes

    April 16, 2005

    By Mark Bergin at World Magazine Scott McConnell disputes the postmodern fads of elementary pedagogy, calling multiculturalism and lax discipline educational stumbling blocks. The former graduate student at Le Moyne College in Syracuse advocates a more traditional classroom—complete with cultural value judgments and corporal punishment. Such ideas, according to Le Moyne officials, merit expulsion. Mr. McConnell’s story tops the Collegiate Network’s 2005 Campus Outrage Awards, an annual listing of ridiculous happenings in academia. The Pollys—so dubbed in mockery of political correctness run amok—are meant to incite more than just chuckles among conservatives. “We want to focus national attention on the absurdity […]

    » Read More

  • ‘Pollys’ Spotlight Politically Correct Excesses On U.S. Campuses

    April 14, 2005

    By Jim Brown at Agape Press A higher education watchdog group has unveiled its annual “Campus Outrage Awards,” documenting the worst “absurdities” and most egregious examples of political correctness on college campuses this year. The president of Harvard University receiving a faculty vote of no confidence for suggesting that innate differences might account for some of the inequalities between men and women in certain fields of endeavor; and Duke University hosting a Palestine Solidarity Movement conference with a segment designed to recruit students for terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad — those are just two of the dubious honorees […]

    » Read More

  • 2005 Campus Outrage Awards

    April 1, 2005

    Collegiate Network Duke spends over $50,000 on a tactical training session for activists dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel, while a graduate student at LeMoyne College is expelled for writing that light spanking has a legitimate role in classroom discipline. A UNLV professor is engulfed in a whirlwind of controversy after making a remark about the financial planning habits of homosexuals, while a student at Occidental College is convicted of sexually harassing the whole school over the radio. Ward Churchill is defended by the academic community for declaring that victims of the World Trade Center bombing deserved […]

    » Read More

  • Shock jock sues college

    March 18, 2005

    EAGLE ROCK — A former Occidental College talk radio host whose verbal skewering of fellow students prompted school officials to discipline him for sexual harassment has sued his alma mater for $10 million. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education and the American Civil Liberties Union are among the civil- rights organizations that have rallied behind the former talk show host, Jason Antebi. “It’s about a university that is supposed to be teaching people to be open-minded, to be thinkers, and who themselves are close-minded and completely disrespectful of the student’s constitutional rights,’ said Antebi’s attorney, Richard Sherman. Antebi, […]

    » Read More

  • Fired Campus Radio ‘Shock Jock’ Sues College

    March 16, 2005

    Contending that his freedom of speech was violated and reputation damaged, a former student ousted last year by Occidental College as co-host of a “shock jock”-style campus radio show sued his alma mater Tuesday for more than $10 million. Jason Antebi’s suit says that the Los Angeles college had no basis for removing him from the “Rant and Rave” show on campus station KOXY-FM (104.7). It also maintains that Occidental officials wrongly found him guilty in a campus disciplinary proceeding of sexual harassment for comments he made on the show. Antebi’s firing became a celebrated cause among some advocates for […]

    » Read More

  • Dark Times for Students at Occidental College

    December 27, 2004

    Despite the uproar about the Federal Communications Commission’s aggressive attempts to clean up America’s airwaves, a shocking case of censorship that recently occurred in California has garnered precious little attention. What makes this case even more distressing is that it originated in a medium where one would expect free speech to be sacrosanct: college radio.   Jason Antebi, a senior at Occidental College in Los Angeles, not only lost his job at the student radio station, but was also found guilty by campus officials of “sexual harassment” for the content of his radio show. Antebi’s show was one of the […]

    » Read More

  • Difference between offensive, unprotected speech

    December 8, 2004

    In March of 2004, I was hastily fired from the radio show I had hosted for three years as a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles and found guilty of “sexual harassment” against my entire audience for parodying two student government rivals on my show. My crime? I had called one a “bearded feminist” and the other a “douche.” Sure, it may have been impolite, but my show was called “Rant and Rave,” and the entire point of the show was to deliver the “shock jock” humor that is typical of college radio programs. That style, which criticized everyone […]

    » Read More

  • Oxy’s morons

    August 4, 2004

    On March 30th of this year, Occidental College President Ted Mitchell (email) announced that he was disbanding the Occidental College student government due to various instances of “abusive, intimidating, harassing behavior that have no place on (Occidental’s) campus.” According to Mitchell, such acts were “masquerading as open expression.” This action by the college now means that $441,000 in student fees will not be administered by the students’ elected representatives. Instead, they have been confiscated by college administrators.   Most of the reasons cited by President Mitchell relate to a student “shock jock” named Jason Antebi who was the host of a […]

    » Read More

  • Educational Group: Occidental on Thin Ice, Suppressing Student Free Speech

    July 20, 2004

    Occidental College in Los Angeles is being accused of suppressing free speech by firing the host of a popular student radio program and finding him guilty of sexual harassment due to satirical jokes he made on the air.   In March, the school fired Jason Antebi for making on-air comments that two of his student government rivals claimed were offensive to “women, diversity, and Occidental College.” Greg Lukianoff with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) then wrote a letter to the college on behalf of Antebi. The school’s response, he says, indicated to him that the general counsel […]

    » Read More

  • Four Key Points About Free Speech and the Feds’ ‘Blueprint’

    July 15, 2013

    It’s been more than two months since FIRE and the higher ed community were shocked by a letter issued jointly by the Departments of Education and Justice to the University of Montana. FIRE staff have blogged extensively about the Departments’ “blueprint” for campus sexual harassment in the last 10 weeks, but there are four crucial points that I believe bear special emphasis. 1. Overbroad and vague harassment rationales have been the primary justification and legal theorybehind campus speech codes since the 1980s.  In one sense, the attempt to stretch the definition of harassment beyond all recognition is nothing new. Speech codes came into vogue on campuses […]

    » Read More

  • This Month in FIRE History: FIRE Defends Student “Shock Jock” at Occidental College

    July 23, 2008

    As FIRE approaches our tenth anniversary in 2009, it’s fitting to revisit the most important cases that we’ve taken during the past decade. Every month, I’ll delve deep into our archives to highlight some of our most memorable defenses of individual rights on campus. To start, let’s consider one of FIRE’s most notorious cases: that of Occidental College student radio “shock jock” Jason Antebi. While attending Occidental College, Antebi had been the host of a college radio show entitled “Rant and Rave.” The show had a reputation for frequently mocking both the administration and the student government, of which Antebi […]

    » Read More

  • Lawyers for former Occidental shock jock ask California Supreme Court for review

    September 29, 2006

    Lawyers for former Occidental College shock jock Jason Antebi filed a brief with the California State Supreme Court last week asking it to review a court ruling that said he had no legal standing to sue the university for censorship because he had already graduated. In his lawsuit, Antebi claimed university officials violated California’s Leonard Law, which provides free speech protection to private college students, when they fired him from the campus radio station for controversial comments made on air. But an appeals court upheld a ruling that the Leonard Law only applies to students who are “currently enrolled” at […]

    » Read More

  • Judges allow defamation lawsuit against Oxy to proceed

    September 27, 2006

    Occidental Alumnus and former KOXY “shock-jock” Jason Antebi (’04) can sue Occidental College and its General Counsel Sandra Cooper for defamation, according to a decision handed down by a California appellate court last month. The unanimous decision by the three-judge panel reversed a lower court’s ruling that dismissed Antebi’s lawsuit. The trial court’s August 2005 decision held that Antebi was required to pursue internal “administrative” remedies to exhaustion, such as judicial hearings with College officials and other forms of recourse outlined in the student handbook, but regardless of Occidental’s conduct, Antebi could not sue. In spring 2004, Occidental cancelled Antebi’s […]

    » Read More

  • Occidental offenses

    September 5, 2006

    In 2003 and 2004, Jason Antebi, a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, hosted a popular student-radio program that he now describes as “a satirical cross between Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern.” He and his co-host delivered commentary from an edgy conservative perspective, using crude and sometimes intentionally offensive language to lampoon various student activists and administrators. At the same time, Antebi was elected to serve as the vice president of his student government. In that capacity, he was critical of many aspects of Occidental’s political climate. He consistently opposed the hypersensitive political correctness that dominated the college, and […]

    » Read More

  • Jason Antebi, Occidental College, and free speech

    August 25, 2006

    Jason Antebi can be offensive. There’s no way around it. When Antebi attended Occidental College, from 2000 to 2004, he ticked off many of his fellow students. Antebi was a conservative member of the Occidental Student Government and a Howard Stern-type disk jockey on the Occidental student station. His political opponents, in a failed effort to recall him from his student government position, called him a “racist” and “anti-Semite” (Antebi is Jewish); his door was defaced with the words “You’re a f—ing racist”; he was accused of “sexually harassing women.” Antebi registered complaints with the Occidental administration; the administration did […]

    » Read More

  • Oxy President’s Departure Doesn’t Erase Speech Issue

    July 6, 2005

    On June 8, Ted Mitchell, president of Occidental College in Los Angeles, officially announced that he will be stepping down. Occidental’s press release presented Mitchell’s resignation as if it were just another glorious event in the college’s spotless history. Unsurprisingly, the release mentions neither a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought against Mitchell and his administration for alleged free speech violations, defamation and invasion of privacy, nor his virtually unprecedented decision to dissolve the student government because of students’ alleged “abuse” of free speech – much less the terrible national publicity these events have brought Oxy.In the rose-colored age of press releases for […]

    » Read More

  • Former Calif. university shock jock sues school for First Amendment violations

    April 5, 2005

    CALIFORNIA – A year after Occidental College fired him from his radio station job for making jokes on the air that school officials referred to as “hate speech,” former student and radio host Jason Antebi sued the private school for violating his constitutional rights. On March 15 Antebi filed suit–with the support of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education–in California Superior Court, claiming violations of his free speech and due process rights as protected by California law. Antebi’s battle with Occidental began in March 2004 when the school fired him from student radio station KOXY, after he made comments […]

    » Read More


  • FIRE Claims Oxy’s Blowing Smoke, Smearing Plaintiff in Censorship Suit

    March 21, 2005

    A former student has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Occidental College in Los Angeles for allegedly censoring his speech and dissolving the student government. Last year, Occidental fired Jason Antebi, the host of a popular student radio program and found him guilty of sexual harassment due to satirical remarks he made when joking about two student senators on the air. In turn Antebi has filed suit against the school for $10 million, claiming Occidental violated California’s Leonard’s Law, which ensures free speech to students at private colleges. Greg Lukianoff is with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), […]

    » Read More

  • Student Files Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Against Occidental College After College Censored Speech and Dissolved Student Government

    March 15, 2005

    LOS ANGELES, March 15, 2005—Today, former student Jason Antebi sued Occidental College in Los Angeles for millions of dollars for maliciously violating his basic rights and those of the entire student community. In spring 2004, Occidental administrators fired Antebi from his position as host of a popular student radio program and found him guilty of sexual harassment for satirical jokes he made on the air. Occidental then used the controversy as a pretext for dissolving the entire student government (of which Antebi was a vice president) and assuming control of nearly half a million dollars in funding from student fees. […]

    » Read More


  • $10 Million Lawsuit Alleges Violation of Free Speech

    March 1, 2005

    Jason Antebi ’04 filed a $10 million civil suit against Occidental in March, alleging that his free speech rights were violated and his reputation tarnished last year when he was removed from his student radio show and subjected to discipline. Antebi claims he should have been allowed to continue to broadcast “Rant and Rave” on student radio station KOXY, and that student complaints about the show that triggered the discipline were politically motivated—the result of his actions as vice president for policy for Associated Students of Occidental College. The Northridge resident, who graduated last May with a B.A. in politics, […]

    » Read More


  • Oxy Caught in the Crossfire

    October 13, 2004

    Over the past five months civil-libertarian groups and Occidental College administrators have been engaged in an often-heated struggle over one student’s alleged violation of the College’s Sexual Harassment Policy. What started as a debate-by-letters over the legal definition of sexual harassment has escalated into a disagreement over the very facts of the case. While the administration eventually cut off contact with civil-libertarian groups, the organizations have continued to write letters, conduct parallel investigations and attract as much media attention as possible. Their hope: to force Occidental to overturn its decision. As a student, Jason Antebi has a reputation as one […]

    » Read More

  • Dark times for student rights

    October 6, 2004

    Despite the uproar about the Federal Communications Commission’s aggressive attempts to clean up America’s airwaves, a shocking case of censorship that recently occurred in California has garnered precious little attention. What makes this case even more distressing is that it originated in a medium where one would expect free speech to be sacrosanct: college radio. Jason Antebi, a senior at Occidental College in Los Angeles, not only lost his job at the student radio station, but was also found guilty by campus officials of “sexual harassment” for the content of his radio show. Antebi’s show was one of the station’s […]

    » Read More

  • Breaking the Silence

    September 29, 2004

    Editor’s note: Last month, we ran an article entitled, “Backlash 101,” by GNN contributor Joshua Holland, editor of USC’s progressive paper, The Trojan Horse. Holland argued that heavily-funded conservative groups were taking advantage of an anti-political correctness backlash to make political gains among impressionable college students across the country. Not everyone agreed with Holland’s analysis. Minnie Quach, a program officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a group mentioned by Holland as having ties to powerful conservatives, contacted us with an alternative view. Here Quach argues that Holland painted a much too simplistic picture of the political […]

    » Read More

  • Freedom of speech: RIC ends the inquisition, not the debate

    September 22, 2004

    BROOKLYN, N.Y. ON SEPT. 9, Rhode Island College tried to weasel out of an embarrassing free-speech controversy, in which it had tried a professor for doing nothing more than refusing to violate the First Amendment. And though RIC’s decision not to proceed with “further formal action” against the professor was welcome, it did nothing to convince civil-liberties watchdogs that free speech is secure at RIC. The professor, Lisa Church, was coordinator of RIC’s cooperative preschool. In February, a pupil’s mother went to her and alleged that in a private conversation another parent (both are students at RIC) had expressed racist […]

    » Read More

  • Occidental College’s Censorship of Radio Station Marks Abuse of Power

    September 22, 2004

    Despite the uproar about the Federal Communication Commission’s aggressive attempts to clean up America’s airwaves, a shocking case of censorship that recently occurred in Southern California has garnered precious little attention. What makes this case even more distressing is that it originated in a medium in which one would expect free speech to be sacrosanct: college radio. Jason Antebi, a senior at Occidental College in Los Angeles, not only lost his job at the student radio station but also was found guilty by campus officials of sexual harassment for the content of his radio show. Antebi’s show was one of […]

    » Read More

  • Occidental College Ruthlessly Suppresses Free Speech

    July 15, 2004

    LOS ANGELES, July 15, 2004—Showing profound contempt for free speech, Occidental College in Los Angeles has fired the student host of a popular student radio program and found him guilty of sexual harassment due to satirical jokes made on the air. Occidental also used this controversy as a pretext for the unprecedented decision to dissolve its entire student government and assume control of nearly half a million dollars in funds from student fees. Occidental then began a campaign of false accusations and distortions to justify, after the fact, its illiberal actions. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which […]

    » Read More

  • FIRE Letter to Occidental College Board of Trustees, June 4, 2004

    June 4, 2004

    June 4, 2004   Mrs. Catherine Young Selleck Chair, Occidental College Board of Trustees Three Oliver Court Menlo Park, California  94025   Dear Chairwoman Selleck, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) works on behalf of liberty, legal equality, freedom of religion, academic freedom, due process, and freedom of speech and expression on America’s college campuses.  We write to you and the other members of the Occidental College Board of Trustees today to inform you of a situation on Occidental’s campus which indicates possible serious misconduct by Occidental’s administration, exposes the college to legal liability, and threatens the very […]

    » Read More



  • FIRE Letter to Occidental College President Ted Mitchell, March 30, 2004

    March 30, 2004

    March 30, 2004   Ted Mitchell, President Occidental College Office of the President 1600 Campus Road Los Angeles, CA 90041   URGENT   Sent By U.S. Mail and Facsimile (323-259-2907)   Dear President Mitchell,   As you can see from our Directors and Board of Advisors, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) unites leaders in the fields of civil rights and civil liberties, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, legal equality, freedom of religion, academic freedom, and—in the case of Jason Antebi—freedom of speech and expression on America’s college […]

    » Read More