The University of Oklahoma president’s expulsion of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon students for their racist chant is the social equivalent of sweeping dust under the rug.
David L. Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma, now faces legal challenges as some argue that he stripped the students of their First Amendment rights.
Everyone has heard, at some point and in some variation, the phrase – those are fighting words. But, what many people don’t know is that “fighting words” is a legally defined category of speech that is in no way protected by the First Amendment according to Chaplinsky v New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942) . The category includes any use of speech that would be likely to cause the subject to commit an act of violence.
There is no doubt that the SAE fraternity members were spewing fighting words, so these students were not practicing free speech and are not protected by the First Amendment. However, bigotry is no way to react to racism, and getting rid of them does not solve the problem of racism for the expelled students or the university.
No matter how despicable the act or whether it was legally considered free speech, the members of SAE should not have been expelled for what they did. Society has a way of weeding-out things that do not belong, and the video showed the world that the fraternity was practicing something that clearly has no place in our, or any, society. So, it should have been left up to the students whom make up the University of Oklahoma’s society to non-violently correct the problem.
Education is the only weapon we have against ignorance-based belief systems like racism, and education is what has been taken away from those whom needed it the most.
Students across the nation accuse universities of obstructing their first amendment rights. To give some scope to the issue, the U.S Department of Education made the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s 2014 list for the nation’s 10 worst colleges for free speech. DSU was not included in 2014’s but was on 2013’s list.
There is a real issue here because students pursue higher education to enlighten themselves; however, intellectual enlightenment is impossible if students aren’t allowed to exercise their opinion, and, more importantly, students need to be introduced to, even accosted, with opposing opinions.