It is quest to avoid having the delicate sensibilities of some students offended, another university represses the free speech rights of others.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is keeping an eye on another care of over-reaching and over-reaction.

A national university free speech group says Lewis & Clark College grossly overreacted by disciplining two students for using racially offensive language during a small, late-night private party in a dormitory suite last fall.

In its zeal to root out racism on campus and ensure no student hears anything  offensive, Lewis & Clark ran roughshod over the First Amendment and due process rights of students who were joshing around and hurt no one, Peter Bonilla, program director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told The Oregonian.

….The group’s claims on behalf of the students were first reported by The Pioneer Log student newspaper.

Contacted for comment Thursday, the college’s communications office indicated that school officials did not wish to say anything.

The First Amendment group gave this account, based in part on university investigative and disciplinary documents:

Two friends of different races, both football players, joined in a drinking game at the party, held on a Saturday in November shortly after the end of football season. The African American student jokingly named his team “Team Nigga” and shouted that whenever his team scored a point.

Drawing on a long-running joke between them, the pair also had a short two-sentence exchange along the lines of “Can I get a ‘white power?’” “White power!”

No one at the party got upset or complained. But from outside the closed-door event, a resident of the dorm overheard what sounded to that student like one voice saying the N-word repeatedly and then a different voice asking, “Can I get a white power?” Upset, that student reported the incident to the dorm’s hall adviser.

An investigation and hearing ensued. Although the students were interviewed and given documents only about the events at the party, the college review board hearing also delved into other incidents in which the pair were alleged to have used racially inflammatory language.

Based on their actions at the party and earlier, both students were found responsible for all the violations with which they were charged, including recklessly causing physical or mental harm or reasonable fear thereof; creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment; and engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct.

That finding was made by the college review board, made up of students and faculty members, and upheld on appeal by administrators.

Both students had written reprimands entered into their college record, were put on five- to 13-month probation during which they could face severe discipline if they break any campus rules and are required to complete “bias reduction and bystander intervention” training.