The five resident assistants fired by Long Island University (LIU) for making a mock hostage video in which they “kidnapped” a rubber duck have filed suit against the university in New York state court. Newsday reports that on Friday, Justice Antonio I. Brandveen issued a temporary restraining order preventing LIU from taking any further action against the RAs pending a hearing on the matter. LIU is a private university, so the RAs’ claims against the school are not constitutional; rather, they are claiming wrongful termination and discrimination (based partly on the fact that a group of female RAs made a similar video and were not terminated by the university). In addition, the students’ attorney Frederick K. Brewington alleged that LIU administrators “had ‘defamed’ the students by calling them racists and psychologically troubled, and had likened the video spoof to the 1998 dragging death of a black man in Jasper, Texas.”
Perhaps this suit will give pause to administrators at other universities before they take harsh actions and throw around harsh terminology merely because students have exercised their right to free speech in a manner distasteful to the university. Too often college administrators act as if they operate in a vacuum, free of the constraints of the law, and frankly it is refreshing to see these people having to account for their actions in the real world.