No free speech at Occidental

Occidental College fired a student radio shock jock, and found him guilty of sexual harassment for on-air jokes. FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) is defending the free speech rights of Jason Antebi, who hosted a political parody show called “Rant and Rave” on Occidental’s student radio station.

The program frequently mocked Occidental’s administration, its student government, and various political and social causes. Antebi was also a vice president in Occidental’s student government, where he was highly critical of various administrative decisions.

Three students, two of whom were student government rivals, claimed in March that Antebi’s show promoted “disrespect and slander” against “women, diversity, and Occidental College” and thus constituted “hostile environment” harassment. Antebi had asked listeners to call in with “rape victim stories” and called student newspaper staff members “stupid retards,” notes Student Press Law Center.

“Part of the idea of harassment, when it’s applied correctly, it has to be behavior you’re exposed to against your will,” (FIRE’s Greg) Lukianoff said in an interview April 7. “One of the reasons why it never comes up on radio is that you actually have to tune in; that’s not the same as being involuntarily exposed to something.”

He said the students could have stopped what they called harassment “simply by shutting off the radio.”

California’s Leonard Law prohibits private colleges from disciplining students for expression protected by the First Amendment.

After firing Antebi, the administration took control of student government, charging it was plagued by “deteriorating effectiveness, increasing controversy and mutual recriminations.”

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  1. “…the administration took control of student government…”

    The funny part is that student government never had any power worth having in the first place, and the only power it ever had was given it by the administration. I guess now the administration will have to be the ones who decide what color of banner to put up at the Student Center and choose which DJ to have at the Halloween dance.

  2. Glad to hear that my heros at The FIRE continue to fight the good fight. Godspeed to them.

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    An independent student station would have rights that a school sponsored station does not have. If the administration can be sued for the product of the station, then they have no choice but to control the operation. School administrations should not sponsor papers or broadcasts.

  4. Bill Leonard says:

    It seems to me that this is one more silly exercise.

    Look: who is the station owner, or in the case of a publication, the publisher? The students involved? So what. The administtration always is the station owner and the publisher. That is where the deep pockets reside. And so, if they wish to protect themselves by shutting down the station or the publication, they absolutely should do so. There is no such thing as “student” freedom of the press — and there ought not to be — unless a sstudent or some group of students can show that they will be able to stand up for their published peccadillows in court.

    Before any number of people attack me, let me reiterate: if the administration (and ultimately, the taxpayers of the state) have final legal liability, then their representative must always be the editor or publisher or final arbitor. If the students don’t like it, tough. Grow up kids. Let your parents be responsible, and see how far you get.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Someone agrees with me!!
    I think I’ll drink to that.

  6. Good points, but it would be interesting to see if there were any controversial radio shows at Occidental recently that had a more liberal slant… My guess is that if there were, it would have been defended by calling it free speech…

    But that’s just a guess…

  7. Mike in Texas says:

    This reminds me of the title of a book about free speech issues:

    Free speech for me but not for thee

    I bet if he had been insulting white males there wouldn’t have been any problem

  8. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Some things haven’t changed in 40 years. In my distant youth it was the student newspaper. At Syracuse University (were I was from 1959 to 1963) dissatisfaction with the administration approved student newspaper gave rise to an “underground” student newspaper before the term was invented. G rated by today’s standards; bold for its time. As I recall, it actually discussed pre-martial sex.

  9. I actually go to Occidental. Jason was taken off the air because the administration wanted to get him anyway they could — he exposed many scandals within the school’s administration (they tried to charge him like 30k to put up a plaque on student propert in memory of a student who died).

    I listened to the show every week, including the show that got him in so much trouble. He’s done the same show for 3 years and in fact, school administrators were guests on his show where Jason offered them porn! They laughed.

    Only til he started exposing things and as soon as he got elected to the highest position in student government, did they get upset (he’s a Republican and they HATE that).

    That’s my two cents.

  10. Thank you all for your interest in this case. The fact pattern is so extensive and outrageous it was simply impossible to cover it all in a two page press release. Therefore, I would like to clarify some points. (FIRE has also provided links to numerous letters and documents that explain the facts of the case in great detail. These can be found at

    First, I would like to point out that FIRE, while critical of the decision to fire Antebi from the radio station, made it clear that it was more concerned with the other abuses Occidental had committed beyond the firing. While the firing was legally very questionable, since even private schools in California must protect free speech under the so-called Leonard Law and the firing took place over the objections of the student management of the radio station which was tasked with making those decisions, we did not pursue this issue further. Our primary objections were finding him guilty of “sexual harassment” (a federal violation), of dissolving the student government, and lying in an effort to justify its actions.

    Second, the student government did have some real power. Like most student governments it had the power to manage and distribute nearly half a million dollars in students fees. By dissolving the student government Occidental took control of this money, a decision it justified by reference to false accusations it made against Antebi. The university’s actions should, therefore, raise some serious eyebrows.

    Third, there is a constitutional right to free press which extends to college students that has been recognized at public colleges for at least the last 30 years. Since the Leonard law (which, again, applies First Amendment protections to non-sectarian private colleges in California) applies to Oxy, they are bound by those same decisions that prevent public schools from kicking out students who write editorials that offend some administrators.

    Finally, there is the issue of basic fairness. Even if you were to assume that Oxy had the right to fire and punish Antebi, while supporting the free speech rights of other students, it does not mean they should have. Because they had the right to dissolve student government and absorb half a million dollars in student fees does not mean they should have. They certainly did not have the right to use Title IX sexual harassment to justify their actions when the Office of Civil Rights has been very clear that Title IX is limited by the First Amendment and may not be used as part of a ploy to punish students who merely offend other students. Most importantly, under any analysis, they did not have the right to misrepresent and distort the facts of the case in order to cover up their actions and baselessly imply he had committed serious crimes (which, by the way, constitutes text book defamation even if done by a private party).

    I hope I have helped clear up some facts about this case. It is easy to get lost amid all the pages and pages of documents that this case has generated. In my professional career it is truly one of the worst abuses of power I have seen by an administration anywhere (and I have seen some truly awful abuses of power). Your support of this case and of free speech on campus is sorely needed and dearly appreciated.

    Best regards,

    Greg Lukianoff
    Director of Legal and Public Advocacy

  11. Bill Leonard says:

    Greg, if the student newspaper at Oxy libels someone, who gets sued? Sure, the writer will be named in the action. But if the administration is the publisher, the administration will be the real object of the suit. All the rest is posturing and horseshit.

    I stand by my original comment: this all is one more silly exercise. But if it gives everyone involved something to do, and if it justifies a salary or three — or 30 — then I suppose it’s worth.

  12. Stanford solved that problem when I was a student by making the student newspaper independent of the university. The administration didn’t want to censor the Stanford Daily or be liable for lawsuits. Given the Leonard Law (not named after Bill, I guess), which guarantees free speech rights to student media at private colleges, that’s a wise course of action. The Daily has no faculty advisor (and didn’t before independence), and raises its own funds through advertising. Students don’t get credit for working on the paper.

  13. Jason Antebi says:

    Just a note about Oxy… they wouldn’t let us incorporate, and become independent. When they dissolved the student government, they also dissolved the committee looking into incorporating. They tried to end that committee since it was created.

  14. Mad Scientist says:

    There is nothing stopping a group of independant-minded students from forming an organization outside of the university to give away a free paper to campus.

  15. jason antebi says:

    Well, they said if we did something like that we would lose all of our office space, and equipment. It would be impossible to sustain a student government of our size (we run the newspaper, radio station, student store, etc.) and we purchased ALL the equipment, but they would take it from us if we tried to go solo. They have threatened that on several ocassions. They’ve threatened us with that when we would simply do things they disagreed with.

  16. Mad Scientist says:

    The simple answer is: Bullshit.

    I went to Rensselaer (formerly RPI). Historically, the student government controlls the budgets of all clubs and activities including the interscholastic athletics. The reason for this was the “enlightened” school administration way back in the mid 1800s told the students that if they wanted a bookstore, there was nothing stopping them from doing it themselves. Hence, the Student Union was born.

    Then, when some students wanted an interscholastic athletic program, the administration told the students to fund it themselves. So they did.

    The result: Students control the entire budget of the Rensselaer Student Union (when I left in 1986, the budget was $5 million) which funds all campus clubs, including the Division I Hockey team and the Division III Football team. While the administration has final say-so on hired administration firings, students are in control of the hiring and salary decisions.

    Threats are by and large bluster. One thing I have learned is to never give an ultimatum unless you are prepared to act on it. Call their bluff. Then go start something like “The NOT Oxydential Student Union” off campus. Or boycott the bookstore. Mass refusal to pay student activitiy fees is another good one.

  17. Brilliant! This ad in the email list for the college is hilarious. The school will claim this show isn’t protected satire and parody????

    (By the way, anyone find it off that his cohost wasn’t punished for the exact same thing?)

    Original Message

    From: Jason Robert Antebi

    Sent: Sun 11/9/2003 8:55 PM

    To: [email protected]


    Subject: The most Uncontroversial and Positive show on KOXY!!! You won’t be offended, we promise.


    If you are only going to listen to ONE KOXY show this year… tune into another show, but if you were to only listen to four or five shows, THIS is the one you shouldn’t miss!


    Our show, heard every Tuesday night from 10pm-12am on KOXY 104.7 FM, has changed formats!! No more offensive and fun shows!!

    On this week’s show…

    -What is YOUR favorite rainbow color?

    -Name that New Testament verse!

    -The virtues of building “bridges of communication” so that whites and non-whites can come together and create positive social change!

    -Why puppies and kittens are soooo cute!!

    -Why it’s okay to be “different”.

    -Why it’s wrong to make fun of people who are too sensitive for their own good.

    -“Jew Talk” is replaced with “Mad About Jesus”.

    -Songs by the most positive musicians of our time, like John Denver and the Celine Dion.

    Please join the bipolar Jason “Absolutely Affirmative” Antebi and the painfully shy Sam “Magnificently Positive” Mowe as we talk about loving life and living every day to its fullest (without the use of prescription drugs)!!

    KOXY 104.7 fm.

    Rant and Rave with Jason and Sam. Every Tuesday nights.

    Sponsored by the OXY Libertarians.

    It’s a show even the ICC would approve of.*

    *We make no claims as to what the ICC would approve of.

  18. I think that this whole thing is just an excuse for Jason to continue his shock jock mentality and claim as much fame as he can. The sexual harrassment charges that went out were in an effort to get him on something that he did do, but that they didn’t have concrete proof of. Yes, the things that they charged him on were ridiculous, but I have personally seen him grope a girl even after she forcefully told him to stop. The man is a serious menace.
    As to the colleges takeover of the student government, there was much more reason than just that Antebi was speaking out against the administration.
    Just for everybody’s information the college did end up making the paper independent. Also, Antebi is planning to sue the college for 10 million dollars! Why? For “loss of future earnings” and damage to his emotional state. With that load of crap Antebi should be sued for the same thing for the slander that he put out on poeple on his radio show. Again what this all comes down to is someone who is trying to make a name for himself by grabbing unwarranted media attention. It has been and always will be about him.


  1. Disrespect For Diversity: A Firing Offense?

    Occidental College in Los Angeles fired Jason Antebi, the student host of a popular student radio program for, among other transgressions of political correctness. (Hat Tip to Joanne Jacobs) In response to Antebi’s biting on-air satire, three students …