Occidental College’s Ongoing Shame: Part 6

March 18, 2005

Well, I can’t say I am that surprised, but the Los Angeles Times has let it readers down yet again in its coverage of the Oxy case. Stuart Silverstein, the author of the first disappointing and deferential article, has written a short, anemic article that ignores many of the most important aspects of the case.

As I mentioned before, Los Angeles is largely a one-paper town. The lack of serious local coverage of this case is one of the reasons that this case has gone on so long. I can virtually guarantee that if the Times had bothered to follow the scandals and controversies in this case more thoroughly, this case would have been resolved long ago (and, I suspect, a number of people at Oxy would be out of a job by now).

In the recent article Silverstein writes: “Antebi’s firing became a celebrated cause among some advocates for campus free speech.” He goes on to name FIRE and the ACLU of Southern California. Now, first of all, calling this a “celebrated” case is both dismissive and simply wrong. Thanks in large part to the Los Angeles Times’ poor coverage of this case, it has been hard to get knowledge about the case out to the public at all, let alone “celebrate” it. Furthermore, the article ignores that this case has brought together an unprecedented coalition including not just the ACLU and FIRE, but also the Student Press Law Center, Students for Academic Freedom, the Individual Rights Foundation and PEN USA. That’s kind of an important fact to leave out.

Silverstein also mentions “a recording of the controversial radio broadcast obtained by The Times” and goes on to list some remarks, the most offensive of which Jason claims were taken out of context (the always risky on the modern campus “wouldn’t it be horrible if I said this…”-type comedy). Neither FIRE nor Jason has a copy of this recording and I wanted to hear for myself if I thought the presentation was fair, so I wrote Silverstein requesting a copy. He declined.

The article does not address the actual substance of the sexual harassment claims that led to Antebi’s firing (two of the claims were from Jason’s student government rivals and the crux of their claim was that Jason had called one a “douche” and the other a “bearded feminist”); it does not mention that he was fired over the objections of the student management of the station ( I will be writing about this soon); it does not mention the dissolution of the student government (which, despite Oxy’s claims to the contrary, was obviously related to the Antebi incident); it does not mention the subsequent revelation from FIRE that Oxy had relied on baseless and inaccurate allegations (including allegations of serious criminal conduct) against its students in order to justify its actions after the fact; it does not mention the absurd situation in which the General Counsel of the college essentially said the ACLU of Southern California did not know ACLU policy; it does not mention that there is still no student government; and so on and so on.

When I first took this story to the Los Angeles Times I was told by Jason Antebi not to expect much luck with them since Occidental College and the Times have close ties with each other. While it is often the case that local reporters serve as adjunct faculty at local colleges, and faculty often publish in local newspapers, I thought the facts of this case were so compelling that any bias would be overcome by the sheer weight of the facts we have assembled in this case (see for yourself in our case archive). Sadly, I am starting to think Jason may have been right. I believe the Los Angeles Times (or at least Silverstein) sides with Oxy and tends to be skeptical of its multitude of critics. I don’t think this case is going to get the coverage it deserves until a news agency other than the Los Angeles Times starts covering it.

Schools:  Occidental College