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Letter: First Amendment protects TKE shenanigans

In response to The State Press' Jan. 21 story, "ASU Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity causes outrage after MLK-themed party:" Are you kidding me? A frat was suspended for its members' off-campus "inappropriate" speech and student attendees at the party threatened with expulsion for "offensive" speech?

It sounds like this knee-jerking public university has overreacted and is violating the students' free speech and associational rights.

Has ASU ever heard of the First Amendment? Students have free speech and associational rights, and it is not the University's business to punish off-campus or on-campus conduct that consists solely of disfavored, unpopular or "inappropriate" speech.

Mocking Martin Luther King, Jr., parodying racial or cultural stereotypes and the like may be inappropriate, tasteless and inane, but such shenanigans are protected First Amendment activities.

Satire, parody, mockery, poking fun at racial icons and employing racial and cultural stereotypes — as well as the mocking use of the N-word are not suited for punishment.

Indeed, I wonder if the University's response to such inappropriate behavior would have been the same if this event occurred at a social where black students mocked the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. What if black students had "acted" black and dressed black or used cultural stereotypes and the N-word?

Black or white, no matter the skin color of the students at this party, there needs to be a single standard of protection and judgment.

Inappropriate conduct is too broad and vague a term much less standard for putting any student into jeopardy of suspension or expulsion on the grounds of speech alone.

This is a teaching moment for Arizona State University, not a time for punishing students exercising their First Amendment privileges.


Michael Meyers

Executive Director

New York Civil Rights Coalition


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