June 12, 2018

AT SYRACUSE, TRUTH IS FAR LESS IMPORTANT THAN POLITICS: In the Washington Post, Syracuse law professor Greg Germain points out that the supposedly bigoted and racist language used by members of a fraternity suspended after video of a satirical roast got out was, uh, satirical:

A diverse group of 15 students (white, African American, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim, Christian) who were pledging an engineering fraternity were asked to do a roast of the fraternity members for their joint amusement. The skits were crude: masturbation jokes; a politically conservative member was made to be an alt-right bigot who formed a competing fraternity to spread racism; a skit about sexually assaulting a fraternity member who was so controlled by his girlfriend that he could not move (patterned after a viral Brandon Rogers YouTube video). They were making fun of themselves and each other in outlandish ways using very crude language.

And Syracuse knew this perfectly well before it ruined these would-be engineers’ educational plans (and perhaps careers) for nothing. Take this example, from the affidavit of a black student that was filed in the suspended students’ lawsuit against Syracuse:

7. The second skit, entitled “The Trilogies of Tri Kappa,” was based on a satirical fraternity headed by a racist who was trying to integrate members of his “once great” fraternity to “his newly formed white empire.” This imaginary fraternity known as Tri Kappa was the “main enemy” of Theta Tau. This story was intended to lampoon one Chapter member who was a known supporter of President Trump and a political conservative.

8. The main character in the story was presented by the new member portraying him as a red neck, “back woods” figure, who forced his pledges to undergo an “anointing” by taking an oath to “always have hate in [his] heart” for “niggers,” “spics” and the “fuckin’ kikes.” The new member portraying the “pledge” taking the oath in the skit was Jewish. It was evident to everyone in attendance who knew the individuals involved and referenced in the story how ridiculous and satirical it was for one member to be portrayed as a rabid racist in our Chapter which had twenty eight members with racial, ethnic and religious minority backgrounds, including me and other African American and Hispanic members. Although I did not participate in this skit, I observed it and laughed along with everyone else because it was exaggerated satire showing the ignorance and absurdity of actual racists.

To be clear, not only did Syracuse punish these students for “offensive” speech despite promising them free speech (which is wrong), it stripped them of their educations for allegedly saying the exact opposite of what they were saying (which is both wrong and cruel). If you’d like to exercise your right to free speech and let Syracuse know your opinion about the situation, I know the students would appreciate the support.

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