Those who follow FIRE will be well aware of the shameful behavior of Occidental College in its persecution of student radio talk show host Jason Antebi. Antebi made the mistake of angering his student government rivals with his talk show, prompting them to file harassment claims against him for his on-air comments. A full description of this ridiculous case of censorship and deceit is on FIRE’s website. Some quick highlights: (1) Antebi was actually accused of harassment in part because he made fun of his own mother; (2) at one point he was also accused of anti-Semitism (he’s Jewish); and (3) Occidental’s lawyer actually sent FIRE a letter loaded with demonstrably false claims about Antebi, presumably to scare us off the case. A truly shameful performance.
Antebi, with the help of attorney Chris Arledge, is suing Occidental in California state court for a variety of tort claims and for violating California’s Leonard Law, which guarantees First Amendment rights to students in non-religious private colleges in the state. In a bizarre decision, the trial court dismissed his claims, finding that not only did Antebi have to pursue his claims in college proceedings first but that the Leonard Law did not apply to Antebi because he was no longer a student at Occidental. Antebi’s appeal, filed last week, explains why this decision makes no sense, saying that the college has no expertise in or procedure for hearing tort claims against it (which seems obvious) and that if the Leonard Law doesn’t apply to those who are no longer students at a university, all colleges would have to do is kick students out to prevent them from ever suing under the law (which seems even more obvious).
The Occidental case is a truly ridiculous case of administrative abuse and disregard for free speech. FIRE is hopeful that the state appeals court will recognize this and prove to be a responsible protector of the rights of California’s college students.