Stripping a student who used the word “faggot” of his wrestling scholarship was “so obviously unconstitutional” for California Polytechnic State University to do, a lawyer told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an exclusive interview.
Cal Poly revoked the scholarship of high school wrestling star and Trump supporter Bronson Harmon after the release of a viral video in which Harmon says “fuck you, faggot” to an individual filming him as he was counter-protesting an immigration event, reported The Tribune.
The school’s athletic director, Don Oberhelman, said Cal Poly can cancel financial aid for students who do things that embarrass the school. But Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, attorney Josh Smith, who is helping Harmon but is not licensed to represent the student in California, termed the school’s action a “clear violation” of Harmon’s First Amendment protections.
“You can’t condition a scholarship on someone waiving their First Amendment rights,” Smith told TheDCNF. “They can attach conditions … but one of those reasons they’re saying it brings embarrassment to the school can’t be because of pure speech.”
“No, because of the sheer brazenness of it,” Smith said when asked whether Harmon’s case resembles any other campus case he has seen. “It’s just so obviously unconstitutional what happened. … It’s just pure speech … off-campus, not that that matters, at something completely unrelated to the school, again, not that that matters.”
But the attorney did compare what he termed an “anti-white hate aspect” in Harmon’s case to elements of other cases that have garnered national attention, such as the Brock Turner rape case and Ryan Lochte’s alleged robbery.
“I think that the school is trying to see what they can get away with,” the attorney said. “I think they’re trying to make an example out of this kid.”
Smith stated he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice to stand up for students like Harmon.
“I want to see the aggressiveness that the Obama administration had toward these schools with its obviously unwise Title IX expansions,” he said. “I want to see that level of aggressiveness in Sessions’s Department of Justice when it comes to protecting the First Amendment on campus.”
“They can hold the specter of federal funding over these colleges’ head[s].”
Cal Poly made headlines earlier in July for confirming it would deliberately try to reduce its percentage of white students, noting the proportion had fallen from 63 percent to 55 percent from 2011 to 2017, but claiming it wanted campus racial demographics to more closely match those of California, where whites constitute 39.7 percent of the population. (RELATED: Lawyers: White Students Should Be Able To Sue Cal Poly For Racial Discrimination)
“Bronson Harmon will not be a member of Cal Poly’s wrestling team, but we cannot comment on any details regarding his status as a student because of federal and state privacy laws,” Cal Poly spokeswoman Cynthia Marie Lambert told TheDCNF. “We cannot speak to his scholarship or his status as a student specifically.”
Lambert cited the school’s student athlete handbook, which states that joining a Cal Poly athletic team subjects students to “certain responsibilities and obligations, which could include the acceptance of the loss of some individual rights and privileges.”
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