January 27, 2014 Michael M. Crow José A. Cárdenas President Senior V.P. and General Counsel Arizona State University Arizona State University P.O. Box 877705 P.O. Box 877405 Tempe, AZ 85287-7705 Tempe, AZ 85287-7405 Michael.Crow@asu.edu JCardenas@asu.edu
Re: Students’ protected freedom of expression
Dear President Crow and Mr. Cárdenas: The ACLU of Arizona is concerned about Arizona State University’s next steps with regard to the students involved with the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity “party” on January 19, 2014. We have strongly criticized the offensive, racist theme that TKE members chose for the event they held the day before our federal holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. In The Arizona Republic I characterized the students’ prejudiced gathering as a "conscious attempt to degrade an entire race.” But the fact that these students’ choices were ignorant and insensitive does not infer that serious discipline or expulsion would be legal in the absence of interference with school activities or use of school property. It is well established that governmental retaliation based on disagreement with students’ words or messages is antithetical to the fundamental protections of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
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