Phi Beta Cons

In Defense of Offensive Speech

Off-Campus Tomfoolery Should Not Be Regulated By Overzealous Administrators

Were signs hung at an Old Dominion University off-campus frat house over the weekend saying “Rowdy and fun hope your baby girl is ready for a good time,” “Freshman daughter drop off” and “Go ahead and drop off mom too” a good idea or in good taste? Not even close.

Outrage has since prompted the frat’s suspension and an investigation by the frat’s national office – well within the private organization’s rights.

But the controversy has also raised important First Amendment questions, as the president of the public university has stated in response that “there is zero tolerance on this campus for sexual assault and sexual harassment. This incident will be reviewed immediately by those on campus empowered to do so. Any student found to have violated the code of conduct will be subject to disciplinary action.”

That’s “completely illegal, and immensely disappointing for an institution of higher learning,” argues College Fix editor Greg Piper. “President John Broderick seems to think that this peaceful, off-campus expression directed to ‘baby girls’ and ‘moms’ violates school policy.” Instead, their signs are protected free speech.

Instapundit’s Professor Glenn Reynolds is all over this.

“My advice to these fraternity guys: (1) Immediately complain to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice that you’re being targeted because of your race and sex, and denied your First Amendment rights. No, nothing will come of this, but that’s not the point. The process is the punishment,” Reynolds writes. “(2) Sue on the same grounds. (3) The real killer: Go to the Virginia Legislature and tell them they should cut Old Dominion’s budget. Come prepared with figures on the number of administrators on campus now, versus 10 and 20 years ago. File freedom of information requests and get the travel expense figures for the folks in the administration. Look over them for suspicious and large expenditures. (You’ll find them!) Make a big stink about those.”

And on Reason, staff editor Robby Soave points out that Sigma Nu’s banners were “not very offensive.”

“In this case, I struggle to grasp what was even so monstrous about the banners,” Soave writes. “Hope your baby is ready for a good time, oh, mom too! is certainly crude and in bad taste. But no specific person is being maligned, threatened, or disparaged. Some frat brothers are eager to have sex with girls—is this surprising? .. Associating the banners with sexual assault, as Broderick did in his statement, is a considerable exaggeration.”

Campus administrators should not let outrage or bad press trump students’ constitutional rights. Or they may continue to lose costly lawsuits and learn lessons the hard way.

Most Popular

Why Trump’s Losing

President Trump pulled an inside straight to win in 2016, and now he needs another one. The good news for Trump is that his approval rating has stopped falling recently. The bad news is that it has stabilized in the low 40s. Election-watcher Harry Enten points out that no president since Harry Truman has won ... Read More

Why Trump’s Losing

President Trump pulled an inside straight to win in 2016, and now he needs another one. The good news for Trump is that his approval rating has stopped falling recently. The bad news is that it has stabilized in the low 40s. Election-watcher Harry Enten points out that no president since Harry Truman has won ... Read More
U.S.

A Stay-at-Home Mom on Her Reasons for Leaving Portland

While covering events (see here and here) in Portland, Ore., National Review writer Luther Abel sat down with Joanna -- a college-educated, stay-at-home mom and now Trump voter -- who feels it is no longer safe or healthy to live there. They discussed the change that has happened in the city politically, the ... Read More
U.S.

A Stay-at-Home Mom on Her Reasons for Leaving Portland

While covering events (see here and here) in Portland, Ore., National Review writer Luther Abel sat down with Joanna -- a college-educated, stay-at-home mom and now Trump voter -- who feels it is no longer safe or healthy to live there. They discussed the change that has happened in the city politically, the ... Read More
U.S.

Baby Please Come Back, Says Andrew Cuomo

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg famously described New York City in 2003 as a “luxury product,” and therefore priced accordingly. The price hasn’t changed, except to go up slightly — taxes, rents, everything. But few would argue that the product New York offers remains first-rate. The theaters are closed. The ... Read More
U.S.

Baby Please Come Back, Says Andrew Cuomo

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg famously described New York City in 2003 as a “luxury product,” and therefore priced accordingly. The price hasn’t changed, except to go up slightly — taxes, rents, everything. But few would argue that the product New York offers remains first-rate. The theaters are closed. The ... Read More
Law & the Courts

New York’s Lawless NRA Lawsuit

The latest bananas news from the banana republic that is the State of New York: The attorney general, a political enemy of the National Rifle Association, is seeking to have the advocacy organization legally dissolved. The pretext is financial corruption and self-dealing on the part of the NRA’s ... Read More
Law & the Courts

New York’s Lawless NRA Lawsuit

The latest bananas news from the banana republic that is the State of New York: The attorney general, a political enemy of the National Rifle Association, is seeking to have the advocacy organization legally dissolved. The pretext is financial corruption and self-dealing on the part of the NRA’s ... Read More