Campus Alert: ‘Mauled Over Myspace’ at Millersville

By on June 25, 2007

In this week’s edition of ‘Campus Alert,’ FIRE’s weekly column for the New York Post, we examine the case of Stacy Snyder, a 27-year-old education student at Millersville University, a public institution in Pennsylvania.  
 
Loyal Torch readers may remember Ms. Snyder as the unfortunate student who was informed by Millersville administrators that the school was refusing to issue her the education degree she had earned after discovering a picture of Snyder drinking from a plastic cup on Snyder’s private page on popular social networking site MySpace.com. The discovery of the picture, which bore the caption “Drunken Pirate,” was apparently the sole reason Millersville refused Snyder her degree.
 
Snyder responded to Millersville’s refusal with a federal lawsuit, alleging that Millersville, a public university, violated her constitutional right to due process—and she may be successful. As we wrote in this week’s column:  
Snyder’s suit requested her education degree, her teaching certificate, and $75,000 in compensatory damages as relief. It appears to have worked: Federal district court documents filed last Tuesday indicate an out-of-court settlement between the parties is imminent.
Despite the potential for a just ending in this particular case, the larger trend illustrated here—university monitoring and censorship of student speech—is still disturbing. (Greg and I discussed this increasingly common phenomenon at length this past spring in an article for The Boston Phoenix.)
 
As we note in this week’s ‘Campus Alert’:
Unfortunately, Snyder’s story is not unique. Increasingly, university administrators are monitoring student speech and activity online. While students may think their MySpace.com or Facebook.com posts are private, they aren’t. Saying the wrong thing online – even if it’s legal or even constitutionally protected – can get you in a world of trouble.