Occidental College: Use of Harassment Charges to Suppress Protected Speech
Shock jock Jason Antebi, a student at Occidental College, served for three years as host of a popular student radio show known for political parody, provocative humor, and frequent mocking of Occidental's administration, its student government, and various political and social causes. In response to Antebi's biting on-air satire, three students filed sexual harassment complaints against him, claiming that his show promoted "disrespect and slander" and thus constituted a form of punishable "hostile environment" harassment.
Administrators soon fired Antebi from his radio show, and FIRE wrote a letter condemning the college's actions and pointing out that his speech was clearly protected under the First Amendment. FIRE soon received a response from Occidental General Counsel Sandra Cooper that flatly distorted and misrepresented facts and implied, without a shred of evidence, that Antebi had committed a variety of serious offenses including vandalizing cars and making harassing phone calls. Amid this controversy, Occidental College President Ted Mitchell announced his decision to dissolve the student government, of which Antebi was a vice president. Shortly thereafter, Occidental found Antebi guilty of "sexual and gender hostile environment harassment," ignoring both the college's promises to defend free speech and California's "Leonard Law," which guarantees free speech to students at private colleges and universities in California. Antebi filed suit against the college for violating his free speech rights. Eventually the two parties settled out of court, with Antebi declaring, "I am very happy with the outcome."
- " Victory at Long Last: Occidental College Settles Free Speech Lawsuit with Wronged Student," October 19, 2007: Following a three-year dispute and a multi-million-dollar lawsuit, Occidental College and former student shock jock Jason Antebi have settled a lawsuit in which Antebi sued the school for maliciously violating his freedom of speech and due process rights when it fired him and found him guilty of “harassment” for jokes both on and off the air. Stunningly, Occidental used this controversy as a pretext to dissolve the student government and began an aggressive campaign of false accusations and distortions to justify its actions. FIRE took up Antebi’s defense in 2004 and is happy to announce that Antebi is pleased with the outcome of the settlement.
- "Appellant's Opening Brief in Antebi v. Occidental College," January 23, 2006
- "Student Files Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Against Occidental College After College Censored Speech and Dissolved Student Government," March 15, 2005: Today, former student Jason Antebi sued Occidental College in Los Angeles for millions of dollars for maliciously violating his basic rights and those of the entire student community. Last year, administrators fired Antebi from his position as host of a popular student radio program and found him guilty of sexual harassment for satirical jokes he made on the air. Occidental then used the controversy as a pretext for dissolving the entire student government. When FIRE took up Antebi’s case, the college began an aggressive and far-reaching campaign of false accusations and misrepresentations to justify its actions. Occidental must now answer for its actions in court.
- "ACLU of Southern California’s Second Letter Regarding Occidental College, March 11, 2005," March 11, 2005
- "Occidental Continues Campaign Against Students," October 18, 2004: Last spring, Occidental College in Los Angeles unjustly punished a student DJ for “sexual harassment” for on-air jokes, and then used the controversy as an excuse to dissolve the student government. FIRE wrote in protest of this violation of students’ rights; the college replied with distortion and deceit. When FIRE pointed out Oxy’s misrepresentations, the college fell silent. A new article in the Occidental Weekly newspaper reveals that the college is continuing its dishonest and shameful campaign. FIRE invites you to read the article and examine the evidence for yourself.
- "Occidental College Ruthlessly Suppresses Free Speech," July 15, 2004: Occidental College in Los Angeles has fired Jason Antebi, the student host of a popular radio program, and found him guilty of sexual harassment due to satirical jokes made on the air. Outrageously, Occidental then used this controversy as a pretext to dissolve the student government and began a campaign of false accusations and distortions to justify its actions. FIRE has formed a national coalition of organizations and is conducting a public campaign to oppose Occidental's outrageous actions.
- "FIRE Letter to Occidental College Board of Trustees, June 4, 2004," June 4, 2004
- "ACLU Letter to Occidental College General Counsel Sandra Cooper, May 7, 2004," May 7, 2004
- "FIRE Letter to Occidental College General Counsel Sandra Cooper, May 6, 2004," May 6, 2004
- "Letter from Occidental College General Counsel Sandra Cooper to FIRE, April 2, 2004," April 2, 2004
- "FIRE Letter to Occidental College President Ted Mitchell, March 30, 2004," March 30, 2004
- "This Month in FIRE History: FIRE Defends Student “Shock Jock” at Occidental College," by Claire Jenkins, July 23, 2008
- "Victory: Occidental College settles free speech lawsuit with wronged student,"
Family Security Matters, October 22, 2007
- "Occidental College settles lawsuit with ‘shock jock’ student,"
The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 19, 2007
- "Ex-‘shock jock’ at Occidental College settles lawsuit,"
by Alex Dobuzinskis, LA Daily News, October 19, 2007
- "California Supreme Court denies shock jock's request for review,"
by Marnette Federis, Student Press Law Center News Flash, November 1, 2006
- "Lawyers for former Occidental shock jock ask California Supreme Court for review,"
by Marnette Federis, Student Press Law Center News Flash, September 29, 2006
- "Judges allow defamation lawsuit against Oxy to proceed,"
by Nick Velkavrh, The Occidental Weekly, September 27, 2006
- "Occidental offenses,"
by Anthony Dick, National Review Online, September 5, 2006
- "Jason Antebi, Occidental College, and free speech,"
by Ben Shapiro, Townhall.com, August 25, 2006
- "Antebi Files Appeal Suit Against Oxy,"
by Nick Velkavrh, The Occidental Weekly, February 15, 2006
- "Court dismisses former college radio host's lawsuit,"
by Kim Peterson, Student Press Law Center, October 6, 2005
- "Former shock jock sues college for pulling him off the airwaves,"
Student Press Law Center, October 1, 2005
- "The Chill Is Nothing New,"
by Greg Lukianoff, The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 9, 2005
- "Wronging student rights,"
by Greg Lukianoff, The Boston Globe, September 3, 2005
- "Oxy President's Departure Doesn't Erase Speech Issue,"
by Greg Lukianoff and Samantha Harris, Daily Journal, July 6, 2005
- "Polly gaffes,"
by Mark Bergin, World Magazine, April 16, 2005
- "'Pollys' Spotlight Politically Correct Excesses On U.S. Campuses,"
by Jim Brown, Agape Press, April 14, 2005
- "Former Calif. university shock jock sues school for First Amendment violations,"
by Diane Krauthamer, Student Press Law Center, April 5, 2005
- "2005 Campus Outrage Awards,"
by Collegiate Network, Campus Magazine, April 1, 2005
- "Alumnus sues: alleged damages $10 million,"
The Occidental Weekly, March 23, 2005
- "FIRE Claims Oxy's Blowing Smoke, Smearing Plaintiff in Censorship Suit,"
by Jim Brown, Agape Press, March 21, 2005
- "Shock jock sues college,"
by Cindy Chang, Pasadena Star News, March 18, 2005
- "Fired Campus Radio 'Shock Jock' Sues College,"
by Stuart Silverstein, Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2005
- "$10 Million Lawsuit Alleges Violation of Free Speech,"
Occidental Magazine, March 1, 2005
- "Dark Times for Students at Occidental College,"
by Greg Lukianoff and William Creeley, Campus Circle, December 27, 2004
- "Difference between offensive, unprotected speech,"
by Jason Antebi, Pasadena Star News, December 8, 2004
- "Oxy Caught in the Crossfire,"
The Occidental Weekly, October 13, 2004
- "Dark times for student rights,"
by Greg Lukianoff and William Creeley, The Northerner, October 6, 2004
- "Breaking the Silence,"
by Minnie Quach, Guerrilla News Network, September 29, 2004
- "Occidental College's Censorship of Radio Station Marks Abuse of Power,"
by William Creeley and Greg Lukianoff, Daily Journal, September 22, 2004
- "Freedom of speech: RIC ends the inquisition, not the debate,"
by Greg Lukianoff, The Providence Journal, September 22, 2004
- "Oxy’s morons,"
by Mike Adams, Townhall.com, August 4, 2004
- "Educational Group: Occidental on Thin Ice, Suppressing Student Free Speech,"
by Jim Brown, Agape Press, July 20, 2004
- "Occidental Suspends Student Government,"
by Stuart Silverstein, Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2004