Syracuse University: Students threatened with expulsion for satirical fraternity ‘roast’; fires professor who defended free speech
A Syracuse University engineering fraternity was dismantled and several of its members suspended after videos of a private satirical “roast” — performed for members of the fraternity — leaked from a private Facebook page. The traditional annual roast, written and performed by pledges, lampooned current members of the fraternity. One such skit satirized a fraternity member perceived as racist by portraying him founding a racist fraternity and initiating new members. After someone leaked the private videos without the fraternity’s permission, Syracuse charged the students with a wide array of disciplinary infractions based solely on the effect their private expression had on the university community, despite the fact that the expression was not directed at anyone outside the fraternity. A former adjunct faculty member who criticized Syracuse’s response was informed that he was no longer eligible to teach at the university as a result.
On May 4, 2018, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote to Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud to demand that Syracuse respect students’ expressive rights and drop the investigation. On May 9, 2018, Syracuse University General Counsel Daniel J. French replied to FIRE, broadly asserting that “the rights of others to a safe and welcoming learning environment” overrode the fraternity members’ expressive rights. After the university’s disciplinary board handed down suspensions to 15 students, FIRE again wrote to Syracuse on June 13, explaining that the board violated the procedural rights of the students and misapplied basic principles of freedom of expression.
October 17, 2018
Lawsuits filed by Syracuse University Theta Tau fraternity members against SU in state and federal court are showing promising signs as they seek to vindicate their free speech rights. The lawsuits have the potential to help establish that private universities must follow through on their promises to protect the free speech rights of their students. After SU suspended 15 members of the Theta Tau fraternity chapter on June 5 for hosting a private, satirical roast at their residence, several of the students filed lawsuits against SU in state and federal court. The students claim that SU’s decision to punish them […]» Read More
June 8, 2018
Fifteen students who “roasted” each other in private were suspended for up to two years after a video of their skits leaked to Facebook several weeks later They were found guilty of “an immediate breach of the peace” (which did not occur) and expression that went “beyond the bounds of protected speech” (it didn’t) SYRACUSE, N.Y., June 8, 2018 — Syracuse University should know what is “protected speech.” It emblazoned the words of the First Amendment on the facade of its school of public communications. It hosts a prestigious journalism program and is a private school that promises its students robust […]» Read More
Syracuse University threatens to expel students for satirical fraternity ‘roast’; fires professor who defended free speech
May 7, 2018
SYRACUSE, N.Y., May 7, 2018 — A Syracuse University engineering fraternity has been dismantled and its members face possible expulsion after videos of a satirical “roast” leaked from a private Facebook page last month. An adjunct professor who questioned the university’s response to the incident was also dismissed. On Friday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote to Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud to demand that Syracuse respect student and faculty expressive rights and drop the investigation. The roast, an event at which new members were invited to lampoon other fraternity members, consisted of several recorded skits. One video shows […]» Read More