Public university speech restrictions
VOLOKH at MAIL.LAW.UCLA.EDU
Fri Nov 1 09:22:29 PST 2002
According to the Knoxville News,
A University of Tennessee fraternity has been suspended because of an
incident last week in which white members painted their faces to look like
the black pop group The Jackson Five.
The national office of Kappa Sigma has suspended its UT chapter, which means
the fraternity "no longer has standing as a registered student organization
and is suspended from participating in university activities, such as
Homecoming," according to a statement issued Wednesday by UT Vice President
and Provost Loren Crabtree. . . .
A number of black students complained to campus officials last week after a
group of fraternity members allegedly walked from their fraternity house to
a party on the Cumberland Avenue Strip dressed as the Jackson siblings,
according to UT's account.
Even if the national Kappa Sigma organization reinstates the UT Lambda
chapter, UT might not choose to recognize the group, according to Crabtree.
"We will require the leaders and members of Kappa Sigma to demonstrate a
commitment to uphold our expectations for civility, ethnic diversity and
racial harmony," Crabtree said.
Crabtree indicated that individual students involved in the incident might
face university sanctions once the investigation is concluded.
Crabtree said the incident was "particularly distressing to the members of
the (UT) administration because all fraternities and sororities participated
in a workshop a year ago to address a similar situation at another
institution." . . .
To the extent that this is simply a case in which (1) the national
fraternity suspended its local chapter, and (2) the University has an
evenhanded policy of only recognizing fraternities that are recognized by
their national body, it seems to me that there'd be little First Amendment
problem. But I take it that if the sanctions the students themselves, or
refuses to recognize the fraternity based on the blackface incident even if
the national fraternity reinstates it, this would be unconstitutional; see
Iota Xi v. George Mason Univ., 993 F.2d 386 (4th Cir. 1993). Or am I
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