Clemson University: Student Charged with Harassment and Disorderly Conduct for Single Email

Category: Due Process
Schools: Clemson University

Clemson student William Kirwan was charged with “Disorderly Conduct,” “Harassment,” “Failure to Comply with Official Request,” and “Computer Misuse” after he told Clemson administrator Laura McMaster via email that “I’m not going to let you bully the organization into doing the things you want us to do or perceive as important” with regard to his group’s choice not to participate in a student organization fair, and joked that she was “smoking crack.” FIRE wrote Clemson president James F. Barker on May 24, 2010, to remind him that Kirwan’s speech was protected by the First Amendment. Clemson dropped all charges against Kirwan the following day.

There is currently no media coverage for this case.
  • ‘Washington Post’ Writer Concurs With FIRE on Clemson Case

    June 2, 2010

    Washington Post education writer Valerie Strauss writes approvingly of FIRE’s recent victory for free speech at Clemson University at her Post blog The Answer Sheet, describing the incident sparking FIRE’s involvement as “another in a long list of overreactions by school officials to young people saying things in a way others would rather they didn’t.” Strauss, who brought national attention to Isaac Rosenbloom’s case at Hinds Community College on her blog, now neatly sums up the facts of Clemson student Wil Kirwan’s case, which arose from an e-mail exchange with an administrator over whether or not his student group would participate in […]

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  • Clemson student charged for rude e-mail

    June 1, 2010

    Here’s another in a long list of overreactions by school officials to young people saying things in a way others would rather they didn’t. I recently wrote about a case at Hinds Community College, the largest such institution in Mississippi, where an adult student was charged with “flagrant disrespect” for uttering a curse word after class. The charges were eventually dropped but not before the student was forced to testify at a hearing. Now we turn to Clemson University in South Carolina, where a student got in trouble for using rude language in e-mails to an administrator during an online […]

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  • Victory: Clemson Drops All Charges Against Student Accused of ‘Disorderly Conduct’ for E-Mail

    May 26, 2010

    CLEMSON, South Carolina, May 26, 2010—Clemson University has withdrawn “disorderly conduct,” “harassment,” and two other charges against a student who e-mailed an administrator using “language and tone” that another administrator found “unacceptable.” After undergraduate William Kirwan was charged with a variety of offenses in violation of his First Amendment rights, he turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Public university administrators cannot punish students simply because they disapprove of their ‘language and tone,’” said FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley. “We commend Clemson’s leadership for putting an end to this violation as soon as FIRE brought […]

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