Welcome to college. Just hand over your First Amendment rights at the door.
A Texas Christian University student was disciplined recently for what the school termed “infliction of bodily or emotional harm” and “disorderly conduct.”
His infraction? Posting purportedly offensive comments directed at Baltimore rioters and Islamic State terrorists on social media, according to local ABC-TV affiliate WFAA-8.
As a result, sophomore Harry Vincent, 19, received a full year’s suspension from extracurricular activities, on-campus living and the use of non-academic facilities such as the cafeteria and recreational center.
Vincent accuses a childhood acquaintance of sparking the investigation after she posted screen shots on her Tumblr page of comments Vincent had made on social media, mostly Twitter, that she deemed “disgusting and offensive.”
The comments, made between December and April on Twitter and Facebook, were made in response to current events, including the Baltimore riots and spread of the Islamic State.
They included: “#Baltimore in 4 words: poor uneducated druggy hoodrats,” telling someone they’d been reincarnated as a “b—–” (a slur against Mexicans) and remarking, “Almost as tan as a terrorist. Going to be thoroughly disappointed if I’m not racially profiled on my trip to gulf shores.”
The woman shared Vincent’s name and social media handles and urged her followers to contact TCU and “expose him.”
“You can email TCU and tell them that he’s shedding a bad light on their university,” she wrote, including the university’s phone number and campus life email.
“I was in shock,” Vincent said Thursday in a Skype interview from his Maryland home, the station reported.
“I can’t believe that speaking your mind and saying something that might offend someone would really get me kicked out of school. Because, to me, I am being kicked out of school. I’m not going to school solely to learn. I’m there for the college experience, to make friends, to have a good time.”
The university said Thursday that for privacy reasons it could not discuss the specifics of the matter.
“TCU expects its students to behave in a manner consistent with its mission, which is to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in a global community,” a university statement reads. “When students’ conduct violates the university’s behavioral standards, they are subject to a disciplinary process, and will be held accountable for their actions.”
The courts have generally sided with students when public universities try to limit their First Amendment rights. TCU, however, is a private school.
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