It has been a bad spell for the University of Oklahoma. First, some members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity were videotaped singing a racist song on a bus, and a video went public. Then OU President David Boren kicked the fraternity off campus and summarily expelled two of the fraternity members.Singing racist songs may be impolite. It may be jackassery. But it is Constitutionally protected free speech. Not allowing blacks into your fraternity may be rude. It may be boorish. But it is Constitutionally protected free association.
You may think it's unfair for me to treat these two incidents as comparable, and if you do think that you're right: The difference is that David Boren broke the law, while the fraternity brothers merely behaved badly.
As a state institution, the University of Oklahoma is constrained by the Constitution. Among other things, that means that it must respect the free speech guarantees contained in the First Amendment, even if that speech is repugnant. Just because the university doesn't like what students say, thinks it's hateful, or worries that it will produce an unpleasant atmosphere on campus, doesn't grant it the authority to punish people for speaking. One would think that Boren — a former U.S. senator who took an oath to uphold the Constitution when he was sworn into office — would know better. Apparently not.
Meanwhile, OSU deserves to get its pants sued off and David Boren should be fired by the university immediately. As Glenn rightly points out, OU didn't expel a black football player who beat up a girl so badly that he literally broke her face. But they expelled two white students for engaging in legal and Constitutionally-protected behavior.
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