OU Student Speaks In National Publications About Free Speech Lawsuit

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The Ohio University portion of the video above begins at 11:10 

Isaac Smith* is receiving vast media attention nationwide for his first amendment lawsuit against Ohio University.

Video of Smith, a 22-year-old political science and Spanish major at OU, announcing the lawsuit at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, went live Friday on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) website. FIRE defends free speech on college campuses and is helping connect Smith with attorneys.

Smith is suing Ohio University for allegedly forbidding "Students Defending Students," a student organization that advises students through the university judiciary process, from wearing their t-shirts, on the back of which is written, “We get you off for free.” According to the complaint, the university stated that the t-shirts “objectified women” and “promoted prostitution.”

In the press statement, Smith, who said that the point of the shirts was to be humorously inappropriate and “attention-grabbing,” said, “I’m tired of seeing my university work so hard to discourage people from speaking. Their attempt to presumably create a ‘friendlier’ campus is doing just the opposite.”

The lawsuit has been picked up by several nationwide media outlets, including USA Today, The Huffington Post and The New York Times.

In an interview with USA Today, Smith said:

“Our big hope is to stand up for student speech across the country and send a message to universities that speech that is unpopular in any way – funny messages or controversial – we want the speech codes to be changed, we want to make it that students will be able to have their say.”

In an interview with The New York Times, spokeswoman Katie Quaranta said that SDS was never directed to not wear the shirts and that “no student misconduct action was ever threatened or taken.”

FIRE president Greg Lukianoff said in a statement issued Monday that since 1989, “campus speech codes have consistently lost in court as clear violations of the First Amendment that are incompatible with higher education.”

*Smith is the son of Rusty Smith, WOUB's director of radio.