By Blake Neff
A fraternity at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Virginia that caused consternation for its connection with lewd signs has been suspended pending an investigation.
As parents drove up to the school to drop their children off for orientation last weekend, signs hung from the balcony of an off-campus house with phrases such as “Freshman daughter drop-off” and “Go ahead and drop off your mom, too.” The house isn’t university-owned, but it houses numerous members of the fraternity Sigma Nu and is associated with the house. (RELATED: PC Police Set Sights On Fraternity’s ‘Welcome, Freshmen’ Signs)
Sigma Nu national director Brad Beachum has said the organization has suspended the local chapter of the fraternity, and said they plan to discipline any fraternity members involved in the creation of the signs.
“Such language has no place in our Fraternity or within any caring community, such as that of ODU,” Beachum said in a statement released Monday.
But Sigma Nu isn’t the only organization taking action over the signs. ODU president John Broderick has also promised “disciplinary action” against any student who violated the code of conduct in relation to the signs.
“There is zero tolerance on this campus for sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Broderick said in his statement. ODU’s code of conduct includes a ban on jokes of a “sexual nature” if they are unwelcome to the recipient.
Broderick’s pledge to punish students over their speech may be unconstitutional, though, since ODU is a public college and subject to constitutional restrictions concerning free speech. Similar concerns were raised last March, when University of Oklahoma president David Boren unilaterally expelled two students for their role in a racist song that was captured on video. At the time, Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) pointed out to The Daily Caller News Foundation that since Oklahoma is a public school, it must give its students the full protection of the First Amendment. While Boren was never sued for his expulsions, that doesn’t mean ODU would get the same free pass. (RELATED: Civil Rights Org Says Oklahoma Video Was Offensive, But Still Free Speech)
And should that happen, ODU could take damage to more than its reputation. A student expelled by Valdosta State University successfully extracted $900,000 from the school when he settled a lawsuit arguing his First Amendment rights were violated. (RELATED: Student Takes His College To The Cleaners For $900k)
Follow Blake on Twitter
Send tips to [email protected].