Now that OU Sigma Alpha Epsilon students Parker Rice and Levi Pettit have been expelled by President David Boren, some legal experts are questioning whether the university is ignoring the students’ freedom of speech.
Opinions are mixed. Some legal experts say students have to follow the school’s code of conduct, or OU has the right to kick them out. Others say President Boren punishing those SAE students is censorship. They say no matter how abhorrent the video, it’s protected under the First Amendment.
Did President David Boren go too far expelling SAE students over the racist chant video? Some legal experts say yes.
“David Boren’s zero tolerance on campus for particular kinds of speech is not only a violation of the First Amendment, it does little to address the real problem of racism,” OSU media law professor Dr. Joey Senat said.
Dr. Senat says while Boren is trying to manage public relations, he’s censoring students, especially since this infamous video was recorded outside of school.
But other legal experts argue OU has a code of conduct students must follow; if they don’t follow the code of conduct, the school can discipline them, and even expel them.
“OU’s best bet is going to be to try and rely on their code of conduct and use one of the prohibited acts that’s listed in that code of conduct instead of relying on a Constitutional issue,” legal analyst Adam Banner said.
Banner says the university also has to keep in mind the due process protections in the student conduct code.
“They need to follow those and make sure those students’ rights are protected regardless of what they said and how derogatory those words were,” Banner said.
In the end, legal experts like Senat say Boren’s actions set a dangerous precedent.
“The next time, it’ll be the speech that you support, the speech you believe in,” Senat said.