On March 30th of this year, Occidental College President Ted Mitchell (email) announced that he was disbanding the Occidental College student government due to various instances of “abusive, intimidating, harassing behavior that have no place on (Occidental’s) campus.” According to Mitchell, such acts were “masquerading as open expression.” This action by the college now means that $441,000 in student fees will not be administered by the students’ elected representatives. Instead, they have been confiscated by college administrators.
Most of the reasons cited by President Mitchell relate to a student “shock jock” named Jason Antebi who was the host of a college radio show whose very point was to ruffle feathers. Shortly after Mitchell’s actions, the college’s Title IX officer Maryanne Horowitz decided that one of Antebi’s broadcasts constituted sexual harassment against his entire audience. Horowitz’s ruling was issued in response to sexual harassment complaints from three students who were “offended” by the content of Antebi’s Rant and Rave radio show.
Horowitz’s bizarre ruling was based exclusively on the perceived “offensiveness” of Antebi’s radio show. Her ruling determined that radio hosts can sexually harass people they have never actually met. Furthermore, an entire audience can be harassed even if most of them weren’t aware that they were harassed. After all, she’s the Title IX officer. She knows about these things.
The three students who “felt” that they were exposed to a “hostile environment” claimed that Antebi showed “disrespect and slander” against “women, diversity, and Occidental” College. Two of the complainants were Antebi’s political rivals and a third was one of the rival’s friends.
The university has since found that Antebi committed “sexual and gender hostile environment harassment.” The “harassment” was deemed so serious that it overrides California’s Leonard Law, which says that free speech is guaranteed to students at private colleges and universities.
The charges include Mr. Antebi’s references to his own mother as a “bitch” and a “whore.” These crude references made him guilty of harassing not just his own mother, but all mothers everywhere. Other childish insults, such as twisting a student’s name into the nickname “Van Der Douche” and calling another student a “bearded feminist” were also deemed actionable harassment even though they were spoken during a radio program but not directly to the complaining students. This, despite the fact that the “Van Der Douche” comment was directed to another male student. Furthermore, Antebi insulted everyone, all the time and thus did not “discriminate” as sexual harassment requires.
The brief complaint of one of the two complaining female students described how she was “horrified, hurt, terrified, offended, and left utterly speechless” by the way in which Antebi insulted his own mother, insulted the student newspaper editors, asked sexual questions of a Seven-Eleven employee, and mocked the upcoming Take Back the Night event. The complaint does nothing more than detail the student’s emotional reactions to transgressions such as anti seven-eleven-ism.
The second complaint, by another female student, is even more bizarre from a legal standpoint. The student actually concluded her complaint with the assertion that Antebi’s radio show should be considered by the university to be more harassing than a personally harassing communication: “By disseminating his comments over the air and the internet, Antebi inevitably contributed to a hostile environment, not just for me and (the male complainant) but for women at Occidental College and everywhere.” So, now, the victims of Antebi’s sexual harassment include the entire world population of females and at least one male.
The third complaint, from a male, describes how the “Vander Douche” reference has ruined the young student’s life: “For the last month, I have had to bear constant public sexual ridicule. All my friends have seen Jason Antebi’s statements in the Student Digest. Some heard his comments on the radio. I have to walk around campus every day wondering who is laughing at me for being the ‘Vander Douche,’ looking like a vagina, and spreading jokes of what I have up my ass.” Though he was the butt of unclean jokes, the student stopped short of asking the administration to wash Antebi’s mouth out with soap.
And, of course, none of these three “offended” students filed a complaint about Occidental College’s recent production of the Vagina Monologues, which was advertised with sexually explicit terms such as “Cum to the Chapel to Pray” and “I would eat my p**** if only I could. Yum.”
There is a double standard at work at Occidental College. But that isn’t the only problem.
Like most universities, Occidental has lost its ability to distinguish between speech that is simply insulting on the one hand, and speech that is threatening, frightening, or intimidating on the other hand. Such confusion stems from the new “right to feel comfortable” which is gradually replacing the old right to free speech, which guarantees that people will be offended from time to time.
So, what do you do if you are caught overreacting to a students’ sophomoric remarks? Do you admit your mistake? Well, not if you’re an administrator at Occidental College. Instead, you just imply that the target of your over-reaction is guilty of other, more serious crimes.
For example, if there is an ongoing investigation of tire slashing in the Women’s Center parking lot, why not just implicate Jason Antebi? Of course, the term “ongoing investigation” means that no one has been arrested, much less tried and convicted. But, remember, this is a college campus and the presumption of innocence is a mere technicality. Just float the possibility that Jason Antebi’s references to his mother as a “bitch” and a whore” were the cause of the tire slashing.
And that is what the administration at Occidental College has done. But it is not the end of their disgraceful behavior.
In another bizarre twist in the Occidental case, Title IX officer Horowitz blames Jason Antebi for labeling a segment on his show “token black girls.” Horowitz states that the label “is sexist as well as racist— an epithet that implies an adult has a job, or for that matter a college admission that she does not merit.” The problem with Horowitz’s accusation is that the segment was actually dubbed “token black girls” by one of the African American women (a friend of Jason’s) featured on the segment, who discussed race issues from the perspective of an African American female. Of course, Antebi’s speech would still be protected if he had indeed used this label in a derisive way, but the term was simply being used by African-American students to mock tokenism in higher education. For that, Antebi is dubbed a racist and a sexist.
Occidental is hoping that by accusing Antebi of inciting violence, vandalism, and smearing him with charges of racism and sexism, that they can save themselves from further public embarrassment. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Instead, Occidental College is reminding us that there is a constitutional right to make an ass of oneself. And they are exercising that right to its fullest.Download file "Oxy"