A few weeks ago, FIRE wrote to California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) to urge administrators to rescind sanctions for seven charges against the Alpha Delta Pi (ADPi) sorority based on a “Taco Tuesday”-themed event at which some members wore stereotypically Mexican clothing items. Peter Bonilla, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, has the story over at The Daily Caller—and yeah, it’s really as loco as it sounds.
ADPi was investigated after word of the party’s alleged offensiveness reached the CSUF administration. FIRE explained in our letter how none of the seven charges has even the slightest merit. A public institution bound by the First Amendment, like CSUF, may not punish students just for wearing attire that others deem culturally insensitive. We’ve explained this before. As Peter writes in his article:
Some of CSUF’s claims are simply laughable — for instance, that the party was a “[w]illful, material and substantial disruption or obstruction” of university activities and an “obstruction of the free flow of pedestrian or other traffic.” I haven’t heard any reports of sombrero-sporting sorority girls wreaking havoc in the streets of Fullerton. Not that CSUF has alleged any such thing. In fact, CSUF has been very clear that the disciplinary charges are based solely on the offense caused by the partygoers’ attire. It cannot be true that CSUF’s students are so easily shaken that an offensive theme party grinds the entire place to a halt.
The sanctions, too, are worrying:
In addition to probation through the end of 2015, ADPi is required to coordinate a workshop on “cultural competency and diversity” for its members and a “we are a culture not a costume” campaign to showcase to the entire university. These presentations must be developed with and approved by the university, presumably so that it can make sure the sorority has the “right” ideas on vague and debatable concepts like cultural competency.
In other words, CSUF is punishing students for protected expression and requiring them to declare their devotion to a particular message. CSUF needs to be reminded, though, that the Supreme Court has expressly prohibited state actors (including, as in this case, public university administrators) from compelling students to espouse a certain viewpoint.