Occidental College’s Ongoing Shame: Part 8

April 29, 2005

Over a year after Occidental College in Los Angeles took the virtually unprecedented step of dissolving its entire student government in the midst of the Jason Antebi affair, it still has no student government (for thorough background on what has been going at Oxy,please click here). For months now, students have wrangled over the new constitution and the fight has been truly nasty at times. I have received multiple reports that the same male student who filed the sexual harassment charges against Antebi (for calling him a nickname that used the word “douche” and to whom we refer as “Male ASOC Complainant” in our materials in order to protect his privacy) has been threatening students who criticize the version of the constitution he supports (“Constitution Purple”) with punishment under the student code. Here is the text from one of these messages:

You wrote in today student digest that “Constitution Purple . will ban speech that is considered rude, or undignified.” [sic] This is statement is absolutely false. Purple specifically protects freedom of speech, and furthermore, states that college policy and state law both take precedence over the constitution, and both those documents protect free speech. Constitution Purple cannot violate free speech because doing so would violate college policy and state law. The College Student Code of Conduct states that “the following misconduct is subject to judicial action:” “.furnishing false information to the College.” That’s exactly what you have done. You have lied to the student body. You have intentionally done significant damage to the hard and sincere work of several people by misrepresenting that work. I feel like I have two options-the first straight forward option, press for judicial redress, which would likely go on your permanent record, among other pains in the ass. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to attack you personally. I’d much rather give you the opportunity to absolve yourself of your lie to the student body. So I would welcome your proposals of how to do that. It needs to be done quickly. I await your call before 1:00PM Thursday.

Student government seems to be nasty business these days, but threatening students because they criticize (even harshly) a piece of legislation you support is sad commentary on the state of liberty at Occidental College. This student seems to like to use the judicial system of Occidental College like a hammer and, unforgivably, the college seems to back his efforts. His allegation that being called that insulting nickname constituted sexual harassment was manifestly spurious, but amazingly, even after being informed by FIRE that this absolutely did not constitute sexual harassment, Oxy’s Title IX officer Maryanne Cline Horowitz decided this was sexual harassment in her report concerning the case:

Similarly, [Antebi] applied hostile sexual and gender epithets and ancestry/country of origin to the Dutch name of [Male ASOC Complainant…], Mr, Antebi turns [his last name] into “Douche,” an instrument designed for women to utilize for vaginal cleansing, and Antebi states ‘And Vander Douche who looks like a vagina.’ Thus, Antebi, an officer in the ASOC, distorted the imagined face of a fellow student, attributing to him a female body part in location suggestive of oral sex.

As I wrote in our 28-page refutation of Oxy’s dishonest defense of its actions in Antebi’s case (note: in order to be sexual harassment under federal law, the “discrimination” in question must be “on the basis of sex”):

This, frankly, is one of the strangest paragraphs I have seen in my time as an attorney. The conclusion that this is “suggestive of oral sex” is extremely strained (not to mention bizarre), and at no point indicates that Antebi’s use of the student’s unfortunate nickname was on the basis of sex.  Antebi and this student are political rivals; indeed, Male ASOC Complainant was one of the students who attempted to have Antebi dismissed from student government. You may not like his nickname or the fact that Antebi is rude to this student, but his political and personal disagreements with him do not transform this into harassment “because of sex.” Fortunately, there is no equivalent form of punishable “offense on the basis of political and personal dislike.” If there were, all of Washington, D.C., could be arrested.

The Oxy case remains one of the worst I have seen in my career for reasons that go well beyond their firing a student from a radio show, and it seems that even though Jason Antebi is gone, the college marches along with precious little respect for the rights of its students.

Schools:  Occidental College