Occidental College’s Ongoing Shame: Part 2

By March 4, 2005

In my previous post I explained how a little less than a year ago, Occidental College student radio host Jason Antebi was fired from his job and found guilty of sexual harassment for mocking fellow members of the student government on air. When last we left off FIRE had just responded to a letter from Occidental College’s General Counsel, Sandra Cooper, with a 28-page letter outlining all the different ways the attorney had blatantly misrepresented the law and the facts of the case.

We concluded the letter by saying:

We urge you to undo your findings against of Antebi as soon as possible. Jason Antebi is scheduled to graduate from Occidental College next week. We request that he be allowed to graduate without incident or further attempts at punishment or deception by the college.

Fortunately, Jason did graduate. Given the aggressive and, in my opinion, ruthless way Occidental handled his case, I think this is no small accomplishment. I am very confident his punishment would have been much more serious if not for the intervention of FIRE.

I was not terribly surprised when we received no answer to our long letter. Still, serious issues of misconduct remained and Jason had still been found guilty of violating federal regulations for protected speech. Therefore, on June 4, 2004, FIRE wrote the entire Board of Trustees of Occidental College, attaching all of our previous letters to Cooper and Mitchell, in order to notify the trustees of the serious abuses going on at their college. We wrote:

FIRE urges you, Chairwoman Selleck, and the members of the Occidental College Board of Trustees to take the time to read the material attached to this letter and decide for yourselves whether Occidental College’s administrators have held themselves to the professional standards that you, as the trustees of Occidental, have a right to expect. The welfare of a college’s students and an open and free academic climate on campus are necessarily among the highest priorities of any college or university, yet Occidental administrators have lawlessly persecuted one of its own students, attempted to silence campus dissent, and brought a coalition of civil rights organizations down upon Occidental College. We urge you to contact President Mitchell with your opinions of Occidental’s handling of this matter and ask that the unfair and unlawful punishment of Jason Antebi be rescinded.

Despite informing them of serious abuses on their campus, we never heard from the trustees. I do not know why the Board of Trustees did not respond, but I suspect it was advised by Sandra Cooper or others not to respond to our letter and that this case would pass. Well, it is a year later and the case still has not disappeared, nor will it.

If readers know Oxy alums or trustees, please forward them my article in the Daily Journal on this case, the article in Occidental’s student newspaper about the case, and Jason’s own op-ed on the case. I would really like to know why Oxy and its trustees have ignored allegations of such serious wrongdoing on the part of Oxy’s employees.

One thing that always amazes me about this case is how many serious abuses of students’ rights took place in this single case. One glaring example is that Oxy used the incident as an excuse to dissolve the oft-uncooperative student government of Oxy—a virtually unprecedented move, in my experience. More on that in the next installment.

Schools: Occidental College