Occidental College’s Ongoing Shame: Part 7

March 29, 2005

So, information about Oxy’s attempt to spin the recent lawsuit is beginning to trickle in. The strategy seems to be to keep the media and critics focused on Oxy’s decision to fire Antebi from his radio show, as if there were no more serious allegations against Oxy in this case. As I wrote in the first part of this series:

What distinguishes this case, however, is the corrupt and dishonest campaign the university launched to defend its actions. After FIRE wrote Oxy President Ted Mitchell on March 30, the University Counsel responded on April 2 with a letter making some astonishing and serious allegations. Antebi was apparently a ferocious racist, a criminal, a vandal who was responsible for creating a climate of fear on campus so serious that women were “unable to concentrate, sleep, or even walk across campus without fear.”

Another aspect of this case that makes it truly unique was the decision to dissolve the student government in the immediate aftermath of the firing. And, of course, who could forget the specter of Oxy’s general counsel, Sandra Cooper, claiming the ACLU did not understand ACLU policy? (The ACLU of Southern California has since written a letter indicating that, despite Cooper’s claims, the managing attorney of the ACLU of Southern California got ACLU policy right.) With regards to the firing, we wrote this to Cooper in our 28-page refutation of her first letter:

In our previous letter we wrote, “While removing a student from his position in the student media is highly suspect from a legal standpoint, Antebi is currently primarily concerned with avoiding any further punishment based on his viewpoint and expression.” I believed this was clear enough indication that FIRE did not intend to pursue the firing of Antebi from his radio show. In your response you claimed, “The issue in this matter is not whether Occidental has infringed on Antebi’s free speech rights. It is whether the college is required to sponsor a forum to facilitate Antebi’s behavior, which includes hate speech as defined by both state and federal law, in his attempts to silence the speech of others.” Your characterization of the issue here is, like much of your letter, wrong. Occidental is going far beyond defending its choice not to sponsor a forum for Antebi; Occidental is attempting to punish him as a student for the content of a radio show, and has decided to dissolve the student government. If your statement had been true, and all that Occidental wanted to do was remove a host from his radio show, Antebi and FIRE would not be so concerned about this case.

While we are on the topic, however, it is important to note that Antebi was fired by the Dean of Students over the strong and principled objections of the student directorship of KOXY. I urge you to read the excerpts from the student director of KOXY Jennifer Clasen below. Her insightful objections apparently fell on deaf ears. The firing of Jason Antebi and the dissolution of the student government demonstrate a pattern of profound disrespect for student autonomy and decision-making at Occidental.

From the Letter to Dean Ayala from Jennifer Clasen, 3/22/2004, Director of KOXY Objecting to the Firing of Jason Antebi

…Mr. Ayala, in all due respect, I wholeheartedly disagree with your decision to remove Antebi’s show from the KOXY programming schedule…

Every week the newspaper publishes articles that cause backlash and at times, even outrage. However, it is understood that everyone is entitled to their opinion and that has to be respected. Additionally, if an individual is really dissatisfied with a perspective presented in the paper, they have the opportunity to publish their own opinion in various sections of the paper. The same opportunity is available at KOXY. If students disagree with the content of a show, they are more than welcome to come down to the station and present their own point of view. It is not appropriate, however, to shut down someone’s program because a small minority of individuals are made uncomfortable. Again, this is a chance to create dialogue and debate. I assure you, that these issues will not die because Antebi’s show is cancelled. On the contrary, they will begin to fester…

The beauty of radio is that when you don’t like what you’re listening to, you can turn the dial. For Antebi’s show, people keep the dial on 104.7. We do not censor, and I’m not endorsing or enforcing your decision against Antebi because I feel something of a personal nature may be involved with this complaint that, for some reason, never went through KOXY.

If only more students showed as much principle and wisdom as Clasen. Oxy trustees, students, and alums should ask the administration why her sage words weren’t taken to heart.

Schools:  Occidental College