Two University of Connecticut students are suing the school after they were accused of shouting the N-word outside a campus apartment building. They say the university is violating their First Amendment freedom of speech.
According to WFSB, Ryan Mucaj and Jarred Karal were caught on video repeatedly shouting the N-word outside the parking lot near an apartment complex. The two were arrested for ridiculing someone based on race and they could also face discipline from UConn by being removed from university housing.
Many students at UConn have been vocal about the lack of staff diversity and racism on campus. “I think it’s definitely good that people are taking things into consideration like we all knew about it and all knew that things were being done for it,” one UConn student, Samantha Grubb, told WFSB.
Despite the pending actions of the university, Mucaj and Karal hit back at the school with their lawsuit on Tuesday. They filed the suit in federal court arguing that the school doesn’t have a right to discipline them and that UConn was going against their rights under the Constitution.
“I think under well-established First Amendment law, the university is clearly in the wrong here,” said Adam Steinbaugh, a First Amendment lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, also known as FIRE. The organization fully supports the students.
“You don’t arrest people just because their words were offensive,” Steinbaugh said.
UConn argues that the students violated the disruptive behavior provision of the school’s code of conduct. However, Steinbaugh says that because Karal and Mucaj were just shouting the slur and not targeting people, UConn can’t prove that they were disruptive. Despite Steinbaugh saying the “n-word” is offensive to him, he claims it’s still protected speech.
“The university is a public institution, it is a government entity and the Supreme Court has long held that the government can’t ban particular words, even the most offensive words imaginable, simply on the basis that they’re offensive,” Steinbaugh said.
Another First Amendment lawyer thinks the students will have an uphill battle in court because courts have given public universities broad power to develop their codes of conduct.
Guess we’ll wait and find out if white privilege will prevail again in court.