Montclair State University: Student Barred from Campus for Violating Unconstitutional ‘Gag Order’

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Montclair State University

In October 2012, Montclair State University issued a no-contact order to student Joseph Aziz in response to unflattering comments about a student he had posted to a politically charged YouTube video that September. The no-contact order included a gag order prohibiting him from posting “any social media regarding” the other student. After Aziz later posted comments about the matter to a private Facebook group, Montclair State charged him with several conduct violations, including harassment and disruptive conduct, and in December 2012 sanctioned him for failing to comply with its unconstitutional gag order. Aziz was suspended for the spring 2013 semester and barred from campus under penalty of arrest. FIRE wrote to Montclair State President Susan A. Cole on January 4, 2013, pointing out that the gag order and subsequent punishment violated Aziz’s First Amendment rights. On January 17, shortly after FIRE publicized the case, Cole lifted the order and reversed Aziz’s suspension.

  • GRADUATE STUDENT, FREE SPEECH VINDICATED

    January 23, 2013

     A New Jersey university has apparently realized it was unconstitutional to suspend a student for posting insults on a social media page. Joseph Aziz, a Montclair State University graduate student, admits to making snide comments on YouTube regarding the weight of a female student with whom he was having a political argument. During a disciplinary hearing, he also admitted to mentioning the woman’s name while joking about the incident on Facebook. He was suspended for a semester and barred from campus. In response to questions about the violation of free-speech rights, the school released a statement claiming that it had […]

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  • P.C. Police run amok at Montclair

    January 20, 2013

    Back in 2011, the Montclair State University chapter of Students for a Democratic Society invited 1960s radical Bill Ayers to speak on campus. Ayers founded the Weathermen, a group that bombed the Capitol and the Pentagon.  When he later wrote a book about his adventures, the New York Times ran an interview quoting him as saying, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.’’ That interview might have gone unnoticed if not for the day on which it happened to run: Sept. 11, 2001. So you could say Ayers is a somewhat controversial figure. Yet the university went to […]

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  • MSU Student’s Suspension Revoked

    January 18, 2013

    by Christina Gillham Baristanet   Montclair State University president Susan Cole revoked student Joseph Aziz’s suspension yesterday, putting an end to a controversial issue that had made it into the national news. Aziz was suspended by the university after making derogatory remarks online (since removed) about a female student in September. The remarks were brought to the attention of university officials and in October MSU issued Aziz a no-contact order forbidding the graduate student from having any “written, verbal, or electronic contact” with the female student. He was also barred from posting “any social media” about the student. After he complained about the […]

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  • Montclair State overturns suspension for “trolling”; student says he hopes case sets a precedent

    January 18, 2013

    MONTCLAIR — A Montclair State University student suspended for comments he made on YouTube and Facebook will get to return to class after the school’s president overturned the punishment. Joseph Aziz, 26, was informed of Montclair State President Susan Cole’s decision in a letter sent Thursday, school officials said. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit civil liberties group, had appealed to the president to reconsider Aziz’s one-semester suspension earlier this month. The graduate student said he is happy to be able to return to school. But he is disappointed it took media coverage and the intervention of a civil […]

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  • Montclair State Reverses Student’s Suspension Over Online Fat Jokes

    January 18, 2013

    Joseph Aziz, a 26-year-old student from Weehawken, expects to work with the university to take classes in the spring semester. by Mike D’Onofrio Montclair Patch   Montclair State University rescinded a suspension Thursday it had handed down to a male student who made fat jokes about a female student on social media websites. Joseph Aziz, a 26-year-old student from Weehawken, began serving his semester-long suspension on Jan. 2 for violating the university’s No-Contact Order with a female student who he had made comments about online. But on Thursday, Montclair State President Susan Cole revoked the suspension. “While Montclair State should […]

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  • Montclair State student suspended for online comments is reinstated: report

    January 18, 2013

    A Montclair State University student who was suspended over derogatory comments he made about a fellow student on some social media websites has been reinstated by the school, Montclair Patch and News12 is reporting. Joseph Aziz, 26, of Weehawken, had made the initial comment about a woman in the comment section of a Youtube.com post in August and was ordered by college officials not to speak about the woman or have contact with her. When he mentioned the incident on Facebook.com, school officials decided to suspend the graduate student, citing a violation of the no-contact order. Both Aziz and a civil […]

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  • Student compares woman to meat, gets suspended

    January 18, 2013

    A New Jersey student has been suspended for a semester after comparing a fellow student’s body parts to meat on the Internet. According to MSN Now, Joseph Aziz, a grad student at Montclair State University, was upset over comments fellow students made about a political candidate. Aziz then took to the Internet to voice his thoughts about the students. His comments on a YouTube video allegedly made reference to one student’s legs being ‘a pair of bleached hams’. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has shown their support for Aziz by asking administrators at the school to take back the […]

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  • Student suspended from university for saying classmate’s legs looked like ‘a pair of bleached hams’ on Facebook

    January 17, 2013

    by Snejana Farberov The Daily Mail   A graduate student from New Jersey was suspended for a full semester for posting an offensive comment making fun of a female classmate’s weight online. Joseph Aziz, 26, was disciplined by Montclair State University as punishment for writing in the comments section on YouTube that a woman’s legs looked like ‘a pair of bleached hams.’ The offensive remark accompanied a video from an event at the school where the guest speaker, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, was heckled by some of the students. The speech was organized by a group where Aziz was a […]

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  • Montclair State Student Suspended Over ‘Bleached Hams’ Comment Speaks Out

    January 17, 2013

    CBS New York   MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A graduate student, suspended from Montclair State University for making derogatory comments about another student’s weight, spoke with CBS 2′s Christine Sloan on Thursday. The comments made by 26-year-old Joseph Aziz on YouTube could be called mean. He compared a fellow female student’s legs to “a pair of bleached hams.” “Honestly, in hindsight, it was foolish and I should not have done it, but I was responding to someone who called someone a racist,” Aziz said. Aziz posted his comments under video of the female student’s boyfriend heckling Steve Lonegan, the director of the […]

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  • Poll: Did Montclair State overreact by suspending a student for comments on social media websites?

    January 17, 2013

    A Weehawken man has been suspended a semester from Montclair State University over derogatory comments he made about a woman on Youtube.com and Facebook.com, according to a Star-Ledger report on NJ.com. The graduate student, Joe Aziz, has said he regrets the comments, but a simple apology apparently is not enough for the school. As we all know, “trolling,” or posting negative comments online, is as old as the Internet. There are some NJ.com readers how have turned into an art form.  So it’s easy to cheer the state college for doing something about some hurtful comments toward one of its students. The […]

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  • Public university suspends student for calling another student’s legs ‘bleached hams’

    January 17, 2013

    by Eric Owens The Daily Caller   A university inside the suburban sprawl of northeastern New Jersey has suspended a student for comparing another student’s legs to “a pair of bleached hams” in a YouTube comment, reports CBS New York. School officials at Montclair State University allegedly determined that Joseph Aziz, a 26-year-old graduate student, violated the school’s student code when he published the derogatory comment. The history of the fracas dates back to August, when Aziz showed up at a campus speech by Republican Steve Lonegan along with other members of Young Americans for Liberty, which describes itself as the school’s largest political […]

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  • Montclair Student Suspended Over Comments On YouTube Video

    January 16, 2013

    MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — An advocacy group this week was defending the conduct of a Montclair State University student who was suspended for making unflattering comments at the bottom of what the group called a “politically charged” YouTube video by another student.  Joseph Aziz, a 26-year-old graduate student at the university, was disciplined for violating the student code of conduct after commenting on the YouTube video that a female student’s legs looked like “a pair of bleached hams,” according to published reports. The YouTube video has since been taken down, but the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which is backing Aziz, […]

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  • Student suspended over online insults

    January 16, 2013

    MONTCLAIR, N.J., Jan. 16 (UPI) — A group that opposes campus speech codes is defending the right of a New Jersey graduate student to joke about another student’s weight online. Joseph Aziz, 26, of Weehawken was suspended from Montclair State University for a semester, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported Wednesday. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education asked the university this month to revoke the suspension. “As an agency of the government, Montclair State has no power to order students not to discuss any topic or person on independent social media sites like Facebook,” Robert Shibley, FIRE’s senior vice president, told […]

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  • Montclair State Student Suspended Over Online Fat Jokes

    January 16, 2013

    A Montclair State University masters student is suspended for the spring semester after he posted insulting comments about a female student on social media websites.  Joseph Aziz, 26, of Weehawken, made comments on YouTube — which have since been removed — at the start of the fall semester poking fun at a fellow female student’s weight and referred to her legs as “bleached hams,” according to Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit that pursues civil rights cases and is working on Aziz’s behalf. The comments were soon brought to the attention of the university. On Oct. 9, the university issued Aziz a […]

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  • Civil liberty group defends Montclair State student suspended for Facebook, YouTube comments

    January 16, 2013

    MONTCLAIR — Joseph Aziz admits he was “trolling” — internet slang for posting inflammatory comments online — when he wrote a comment below a YouTube video last fall saying a female classmate’s legs looked like “a pair of bleached hams.” Aziz, a Montclair State University graduate student from Weehawken, said he never imagined the jab at a stranger’s weight would prompt a complaint to university administrators, who forbade him from having any contact with the woman or talking about her on the internet. He was even more shocked, he said, when Montclair State officials called him into a disciplinary hearing a […]

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  • Montclair State University Student Says Gag Order Is Unconstitutional: UPDATED

    January 15, 2013

    Montclair State University graduate student, Joseph Aziz, was recently suspended for violating a gag order after he made unflattering comments regarding a fellow student on a YouTube video. UPDATE: Here’s the response from Suzanne Bronski, the director of media relations at Montclair State University: This matter concerns a student disciplinary matter, and the University does not comment upon individual student discipline because of the responsibilities imposed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The University acted in accordance with its Student Code of Conduct which complies with the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, and other applicable federal and state regulations.

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  • FIRE’s Peter Bonilla Speaking at Montclair State Tonight

    March 7, 2013

    If you are a student at Montclair State University (MSU) or happen to be in the area, come see Peter Bonilla, associate director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, speak on campus tonight! Peter will be talking about First Amendment rights at colleges and universities as well as FIRE’s recent (and memorable) case involving MSU student Joseph Aziz. Peter’s talk will begin at 8 p.m. EST and will take place in Room 411 of the Student Center. For more details, visit this Facebook page. And be sure to check out Peter’s talk if you have the chance!

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  • ‘Star-Ledger’ Columnist Shreds Montclair State’s Treatment of Joseph Aziz

    January 21, 2013

    Last week, we celebrated the vindication of Montclair State University student Joseph Aziz’s free speech rights, after he had been suspended for violating an unconstitutional gag order imposed on him by the university for making negative social media comments about another student. This victory for the First Amendment was long overdue, and we at FIRE were certainly glad that the university’s administration reversed course. However, as Paul Mulshine writes in The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, all is not necessarily well, and the case raises many questions about the attitude toward free speech at Montclair State. In a stirring op-ed […]

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  • Montclair State ‘Trolling’ Case Garners International Attention

    January 18, 2013

    Montclair State rescinded its suspension of Joseph Aziz for violating an unconstitutional gag order last night. After FIRE first made the case public on Monday, the university has been under intense pressure from local, national, and international media outlets. Here’s a recap of some of the case’s coverage: Coverage from before the suspension was rescinded: CBS New York: Montclair State Student Suspended Over ‘Bleached Hams’ Comment Speaks Out The Jersey Journal: Poll: Did Montclair State Overreact by Suspending a Student for Comments on Social Media Websites? Daily Mail: Student Suspended From University for Saying Classmate’s Legs Looked Like ‘a Pair […]

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  • Victory: Montclair State Rescinds Suspension of Student for Social Media Comments

    January 18, 2013

    NEWARK, N.J., January 18, 2013—Montclair State University has rescinded its suspension of student Joseph Aziz for violating an unconstitutional gag order that the university imposed on him after he made comments on social media. University President Susan A. Cole revoked the semester-long suspension in a letter to Aziz yesterday evening, three days after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) exposed Montclair State’s punishment to the public. “While Montclair State never should have issued its unconstitutional gag order in the first place, we commend President Cole for acting swiftly to end the situation once it became public,” said FIRE […]

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  • Montclair State Wrongly Cites Anti-Bullying Law to Justify Student’s Suspension

    January 17, 2013

    The case of Montclair State University student Joseph Aziz—who has been suspended from the university as the result of unflattering social media comments he made regarding a fellow student—began making the news yesterday, with several articles appearing in the New Jersey/New York region and even a spot overnight on Fox News Channel’s Red Eye. So far, however, Montclair State has remained largely silent on the matter, issuing only the following brief statement: This matter concerns a student disciplinary matter, and the University does not comment upon individual student discipline because of the responsibilities imposed by the Family Educational Rights and […]

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  • ‘Star-Ledger’ Reports the Latest at Montclair State University

    January 16, 2013

    In an article published this morning, New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger examines FIRE’s recent case at Montclair State University and reports on student Joseph Aziz’s ongoing struggle to return to campus. As FIRE explained in our press release Monday, Aziz was suspended and barred from campus for violating an unconstitutional gag order placed on him by school administrators. In comments to the Star-Ledger, Aziz explains that he was shocked by the school’s punishment, warning fellow students that his case is unfortunate proof that the “basic rights that we have come to expect as Americans” are often at risk on campus. For more on this case, […]

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