Law Offices of Tim Powers, Denton, Texas
Recently, we have been following the incident that happened with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma. For those of you who are not aware, let us give you the background.
A few weeks ago, the president of OU took action after a video of SAE students chanting racial slurs was released. Effective immediately, OU President David Boren closed the SAE chapter at OU and closed the SAE House. He said there was no room for racists on the OU campus. The video that was released showed Parker Rice (former SAE member) and other SAE's chanting a song that discriminated against African Americans and chanted threats of lynching them. The video was then sent in the Organization "Unheard" that then published the video on YouTube and titled it "Unheard March 8, 2015 Press Release." This video then received immediate nation-wide attention.
Due to the attention and the severity of the issue Boren expelled the two students in the video for their leadership role in leading the chant. In other releases, Rice claims he withdrew from OU. At this point it is still unclear. However a few things are pretty clear. There was a statement released from SAE's attorney, Stephen Jones claiming that there is talk about a lawsuit. He was hired by SAE in order to protect the student's first amendment rights, their due process rights and their safety. The main argument would be that OU denied these students their freedom of speech. Although this appears to be a huge argument there are no real grounds for a lawsuit. The lawsuit is directed at OU for infringing on the students' first amendment rights- freedom of speech. Most state universities are ran and funded by the state; meaning that Boren acted based on the school's morals and principals. Sigma Alpha Epsilon is a school-sanctioned organization, which means that it needs to abide by the rules of the school. Most, if not all, public universities have a student handbook that discloses topics such as racism and the zero tolerance policy the school has for such topics. Overall, SAE Headquarters and their attorney need to look at the bigger picture. It is not about singling out those individuals, it was about putting an end to the racism at OU and that is what Boren did.
Here is an example, as a U.S. citizen and by the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, I can say anything I want because it is within my freedom of speech. However; it becomes a slippery slope when my freedom infringes on someone else's freedom such as threats, etc. So as an individual I have the freedom of speech but it is not absolute.
In this case, SAE and Jones need to be looking at the big picture, which is that Boren took necessary action to protect his university and the principles in which it stands for. When you sign the student code of conduct, you agree to be held to high standards and that you as an individual are representing the university. SAE has a weak case in this regard, and from an attorney's standpoint should not seek publicity as a way to make a case. What do you think?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/03/13/reports-ous-sigma-alpha-epsilon-fraternity-plans-to-sue-the-university/ http://www.collegenews.com/article/possible_lawsuit_against_university_by_ou_sae_chapter http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/09/us/oklahoma-fraternity-chant/index.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBq4_A9nQvw http://www.cbsnews.com/news/university-of-oklahoma-fraternity-chapter-hires-stephen-jones-high-profile-attorney/
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*Tim Powers is an attorney licensed to practice law by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any specific legal question you should directly consult an attorney. Criminal Defense Lawyers with Unparalleled Passion for Success Providing Quality Representation for your Denton, Lewisville, Flower Mound, Carrollton, Corinth, Highland Village Dallas, Plano, McKinney, Denton County, Tarrant County, Collin County, or Dallas County criminal case