Free speech org: Ohio college bans frats, sororities from communicating on social media

  • According to FIRE, Ohio university is attempting to keep members of sororities and fraternities from speaking to one another.
  • Amid hazing allegations, individuals within these groups are reportedly not allowed to communicate via social media, and the university won't tell them how many gathered individuals counts as a prohibited meeting.

A free-speech advocacy organization has sent Ohio University a letter urging the public institution to suspend rules imposed on fraternities and sororities following hazing allegations. 

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports that more than a dozen fraternities and sororities have been ordered not to "meet in any capacity, officially or unofficially," as well as to "reduce conversations to personal topics as opposed to sorority/fraternity operations and updates."FIRE says that affected groups were sent an “FAQ” about the ban, which conceded that there is "no magic number" when it comes to knowing how many students are allowed to convene at once. 

"We need you to use your best judgement," the university told students. "if it looks like a chapter event and people could associate it with your organization, then it probably is a chapter event. It would be best to refrain from engaging in it."   

[RELATED: University promised to get rid of ‘free speech area’ policy SIXTEEN years ago, so why is it still on the books?]

"We need you to use your best judgment," the university told students. "if it looks like a chapter event and people could associate it with your organization, then it probably is a chapter event. It would be best to refrain from engaging in it."

Ohio University Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Community Standards and Student Responsibility Taylor J. Tackett said these restrictions extend to "communication with and among the group via any social media platform or application."

"To reiterate," Tackett said, "I expect there to be no other communication with your members, unless it is pre-approved by me."

[RELATED: Ky. bill would make every zone a 'free speech zone']

Tackett told students that their groups were currently under investigation by the university for hazing allegations and that any violation of the rules they had been given would be considered a violation of the Student Code of Conduct.

FIRE penned a letter to the university Wednesday, calling on the school to "rescind its restrictions on the Groups' ability to meet in person and communicate over social media to meet its obligations under the First Amendment," as well as insisting that the university promise to not impose any such restrictions in the future. The legal advocacy organization advised the university to respond by Friday.

"While OU may impose temporary restrictions on student groups accused of violating its rules, those rules must be consistent with OU’s obligations as a state institution bound by the United States Constitution," FIRE wrote.

"Under the First Amendment, the university may not restrict its students’ freedom of association or general right to communicate via social media in the absence of a compelling state interest, and may only do so where the regulation is narrowly tailored to effectuate that interest. OU’s regulations do not survive this First Amendment test,” the organization explained. 

Campus Reform reached out to Ohio University but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter:  @celinedryan



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Celine Ryan
Celine Ryan | Investigative Reporter

Celine Ryan is the Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform, reporting on liberal bias and abuse on campus for Campus Reform. Celine was previously a New Hampshire California Senior Campus Correspondent for Campus Reform.

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