By Lou Ponsi at Orange County Register
Sanctions imposed on a Cal State Fullerton sorority that hosted a recruitment event in which some members showed up in gang attire or sarapes and sombreros have landed the university on a list of the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech in 2014.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia nonprofit that advocates for First Amendment rights on college campuses, released the list this week.
Listed in no particular order, the top 10 list includes educational institutions that the foundation says wrongly censured or punished students and/or faculty for expressing free speech, said Peter Bonilla, a foundation director.
In August, CSUF’s chapter of Alpha Delta Pi staged “Taco Tuesday” as part of its recruitment process. Most of the attendees wore costumes that specifically referenced a Latino affiliation, university officials have said.
As a result, university officials determined the sorority was guilty of several conduct violations and imposed sanctions that included probation through 2015, recruiting restrictions and mandatory attendance at a workshop on cultural diversity.
The sorority also had to develop a campaign for all CSUF students: “We are a culture, not a costume.”
“From what I read and from what I know, the charges were outrageous,” Bonilla said. “It’s First Amendment 101 (and) exactly the kind of thing that the First Amendment protects.”
The university this week issued a statement in response to making the list:
“Cal State Fullerton disagrees with this (assessment). The university respects free-speech rights and protects the rights of all our diverse student body, staff and faculty.”
In September, Bonilla sent a letter to CSUF President Mildred Garcia saying the imposed sanctions were unconstitutional and requested that they get dismissed.
In a written response, Berenecea Johnson Eanes, vice president of student affairs, said at the time that the university acted appropriately: “We believe the university was able to address and resolve the situation in a manner satisfactory to all personally involved.”