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), which has
advocated on Antebi’s behalf. According to Lukianoff, Occidental’s
General Counsel Sandra Cooper and other college officials have engaged
in a “ruthless and corrupt” smear campaign against Antebi, falsely
accusing him, repeatedly, of serious criminal offenses such as
vandalizing cars and making harassing phone calls.

situation after situation,” the FIRE spokesman says, each accusation
“was obviously false or baseless … and at least one administrator
admitted to it at one point — that for many of the things they
publicly accused [Antebi] of in an effort to convince organizations
like FIRE and the ACLU not to come to his aid, they had no basis for
those accusations. I mean, that’s just remarkable.”

And equally
amazing to Lukianoff is the school’s intractable attitude about
censorship. He calls Occidental’s refusal to strike down policies
restricting student speech the very height of arrogance. But the free
speech advocate says rather than addressing its own problematic codes,
the school tries instead to deflect attention from them.

instance, Lukianoff notes, “In their misinformation campaign that Oxy’s
been aggressively pursuing in this case, one of the things that they
said is that FIRE is wrong, that [Occidental] didn’t abolish the
student government forever. Which is ridiculous, because we never said
they abolished it forever. We said that they dissolved the student
government, which they did, and which they can’t deny.

the activist points out, the basic complaint still has yet to be
addressed. “One of the things that’s really funny,” he says, “is that
[the school administrators] said they didn’t abolish it forever; but
right now there is still no student government at Occidental College.”

is urging Occidental’s Board of Trustees, donors, and alumni to stop
listening to the college’s dishonest spin on the case. Meanwhile, he
also faults the Los Angeles Times for what he calls the paper’s
“anemic” coverage of the case. Some Occidental students believe the
story is getting minimal local coverage because several of the
professors at the school have ties to the L.A. Times.

Schools:  Occidental College

Cases:  Occidental College: Use of Harassment Charges to Suppress Protected Speech