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FIRE Claims Oxy's Blowing Smoke, Smearing Plaintiff in Censorship Suit

Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

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.

"In 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.

For 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.

Meanwhile, 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."

Lukianoff 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 Los Angeles Times.

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