Category: News

Free-speech ‘vigilante’ nemesis of campus PC

The Washington Post by Valerie Richardson March 29, 1993

SAN FRANCISCO –, John Howard had watched it happen many times before. A campus group -· usually a fraternity -runs afoul of the college speech code with a crude song, limerick or chant. Protests follow, the administration is pressured to act, and the group is eventually disciplined, suspended or thrown off campus. This time the group was the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at California State University at Northridge (CSUN). The Greek society had been slapped with a 14-month suspension and was on the brink of losing its charter after posting a flier for a Mexican-theme party “in honor of Lupe; apparently referring to an ob· scene drinking song about a Mexican· can prostitute.
Enter Mr: Howard, San Diego lawyer, constitutional law expert and self-described “First Amendment vigilante.” Working with the Crater· attorney, he filed a lawsuit against the university for damages arising from what he claimed were violations of the Zetas’ right to freedom of speech.

It worked. Earlier this month, the administration agreed to drop the suspension after just two months, despite an outcry from women’s groups and the university’s chapter of the ” Movimiento Estudiuntil Chicano de Aztlan. In return, the fraternity· agreed to apologize publicly and participate in “dispute resolution” seminars.

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