The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, claimed Ohio University violated the First Amendment by having a blanket suspension on communication between members of campus organizations.
FIRE wrote to OU President Duane Nellis on Nov. 12, saying OU was violating the First Amendment. The letter called for the university to rescind “its drastic and insupportable restriction on freedom of association.”
Zach Greenberg, a program officer for FIRE, said in an email that the restrictions on free speech were “extremely severe.” He said OU required all social media communications to get prior approval. Greenberg said it was “in clear violation of the First Amendment.”
Timothy Burke, an attorney who defended OU students, said it was appropriate to punish people for hazing, but it was inappropriate to deprive them of their freedom of speech rights.
“FIRE and these students sent OU a clear message: administrators can’t muzzle student speech and get away with it,” Greenberg said in a media release.
OU received 32 hazing reports against 17 different organizations, according to a letter from Barbara Nalazek, the interim general counsel at OU. The letter was sent to Greenberg and was published on FIRE’s website.
OU did not respond to a request for comment.
Nalazek said in the letter that OU placed the suspension on all Interfraternity Council members and other student organizations so the situation could be assessed.
FIRE urges the Greek organizations, faculty members and other students who are facing discrimination to talk to the organization.