Syracuse University: Education Student Expelled over Facebook Comments

Category: Due Process, Free Speech
Schools: Syracuse University

Syracuse University’s School of Education effectively expelled a graduate student from its teaching program after he complained on Facebook about a racially charged comment made in his presence by a community leader that student teachers were coming from Syracuse rather than historically black colleges. Matthew Werenczak was required to undergo a special course of diversity training and counseling for “anger management” just to earn a chance of readmission. Just hours after FIRE took the case public on January 18, 2012, Syracuse readmitted Werenczak but blamed its actions on the standards of its accreditor, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

  • Syracuse University among worst colleges for free speech for second straight year

    March 27, 2012

    Syracuse University was named one of the worst colleges in the nation for freedom of speech for the second year in a row, according to a list published by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) on Tuesday. Syracuse was ranked second on the 2012 list after appearing at the top of the 2011 list. Greg Lukianoff, President of FIRE, wrote in The Huffington Post that the list includes repeat offenders that “[refuse] to undo serious punishments of what should be clearly protected speech on campus.” Lukianoff attributed SU’s selection this year to a controversial case involving School of Education graduate student Matt Werenczak. […]

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  • Syracuse reverses course after expelling student for Facebook post

    January 23, 2012

    College students and activists on Twitter and Facebook this week dubbed Syracuse University a campus “where free speech goes to die” after the school’s second social media controversy since 2010. Syracuse readmitted a graduate student Jan. 19 after a free-speech organization publicized the university’s punishment for posting racially tinged comments on Facebook. Matthew Werenczak, a graduate student in Syracuse’s School of Education, was a student teacher at a local middle school in July when he heard a representative from the Concerned Citizens Action Program (CCAP) say that the school should hire student teachers from historically black colleges, not Syracuse. Werenczak complained on […]

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  • SU grad student expelled, then readmitted over Facebook comment

    January 18, 2012

    Syracuse (WSYR-TV) — Last summer, a Syracuse University grad student was expelled from the SU School of Education after making a comment SU deemed “unprofessional, offensive and insensitive.”  SU grad student Matthew Werenczak was student teaching at Danforth Middle School last year when something was said inside that he didn’t particularly like, so he made his feelings known on Facebook and two months later he was temporarily removed from the program What Werenczak took offense to was a comment made by an African American community activist inside Danforth — “We need to start hiring out teachers from historically black colleges.”  […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Syracuse University

    September 6, 2013

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2013: Syracuse University.  Syracuse has just one “red light” speech code on its books, but it’s a doozy. The university’s Computing and Electronic Communications Policy (PDF) prohibits using its computer systems to send “offensive messages,” including “sexually, ethnically, racially, or religiously offensive messages.” This broad policy could apply to virtually any online expression that another person finds offensive, including earnest discussions of politically charged topics like immigration, affirmative action, and gay marriage. As such, it is wholly inconsistent with Syracuse’s commitment to “freedom of discussion” and “the expression of dissent.” […]

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  • Censorship at Syracuse, Part I: School Expels Student Over Facebook Comments (VIDEO)

    May 9, 2013

    With three FIRE cases in the last three years, Syracuse University has been on FIRE’s list of serial violators of student and faculty free speech rights for some time now. In fact, in 2011 and 2012, the school was featured prominently on our annual Huffington Post “Worst Colleges for Free Speech” list. FIRE’s next few videos will chronicle Syracuse’s abysmal record protecting rights on campus by revisiting two of the school’s most headline-grabbing cases. We start this week with the case of Matthew Werenczak, a School of Education student who was expelled over comments he posted on Facebook:  “I was […]

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  • Gregory Germain Isn’t the Only One at Syracuse Who Disdains Free Speech

    February 15, 2012

    Remember Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) “independent prosecutor” Gregory Germain, who complained at a law student meeting last year that “I think there are a lot of people who have a sense of entitlement to free speech”? He’s at it again, this time in Syracuse’s student newspaper, The Daily Orange, and he’s not the only one disdainful of free speech rights. Journalist Debbie Truong’s article, “A blurry line: Following criticism, faculty struggle to distinguish between free speech, harassment,” shows that Syracuse has quite a long way to go just to define basic terms.  For example, take harassment in the […]

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  • Syracuse University’s Student Paper Laments Poor Speech Code Rating

    February 13, 2012

    The editorial board of The Daily Orange, the daily student newspaper at Syracuse University (SU), writes today of the effect that FIRE’s “red light” rating of the university’s speech codes may have on future admissions numbers: If the trend of incidents involving free speech continues at SU, it may have an effect on application numbers. Students will not want to come to a school that has poor free speech rankings because it can make for an uncomfortable learning environment. The incidents at the College of Law and School of Education made headlines and applicants across the country could have heard […]

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  • Robert in ‘Daily Caller’: Syracuse’s Free Speech Promises Are Worthless

    January 23, 2012

    FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley’s latest piece for The Daily Caller highlights our recent case at Syracuse University’s School of Education, which effectively expelled graduate student Matthew Werenczak from its teaching program after he posted on Facebook about a racially charged comment made in his presence by a community leader. Thankfully, just hours after FIRE took the case public on January 18, Syracuse readmitted Werenczak, but blamed its actions on the standards of its accreditor, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). About this latest blow to free speech at Syracuse, Robert writes: We’ve been hearing about […]

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  • Will to Discuss Syracuse Expulsion Case on ‘Vicki McKenna Show’: Tune In at 6

    January 19, 2012

    FIRE’s Will Creeley will be discussing our case at Syracuse University today at 6:09 p.m. Eastern Time on The Vicki McKenna Show, broadcasting in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin.Tune in!

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  • Victory: Syracuse Drops Expulsion Hours after FIRE Press Release

    January 19, 2012

    Here is today’s press release: SYRACUSE, N.Y., January 19, 2012—Syracuse University’s School of Education has readmitted a graduate student it had expelled from its teaching program after he complained on Facebook about a racially charged comment made in his presence by a community leader. Syracuse had told Matthew Werenczak that his only chance for reinstatement was to undergo a special course of diversity training and counseling for “anger management”—all because he expressed annoyance over a community leader’s complaint that student teachers were coming from Syracuse rather than historically black colleges. Within hours of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education […]

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  • At Syracuse, Expelling a Student without Charges or a Hearing is ‘Standard Process’

    January 19, 2012

    Today, FIRE announced a free speech victory at Syracuse University, whose School of Education (SOE) expelled a graduate student due to his expression of concern on Facebook over a city leader’s comment about hiring teachers from historically black colleges versus Syracuse University. SOE never filed any charges against the student, Matt Werenczak, and never gave him a disciplinary hearing. But when SOE expelled him, the school gave him two unappealing choices: he could withdraw and never be seen again, or he could undergo anger management counseling and a special cultural sensitivity course and write a paper demonstrating growth “regarding cultural […]

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  • Victory: Syracuse Drops Expulsion Hours after FIRE Press Release

    January 19, 2012

    SYRACUSE, N.Y., January 19, 2012—Syracuse University’s School of Education has readmitted a graduate student it had expelled from its teaching program after he complained on Facebook about a racially charged comment made in his presence by a community leader. Syracuse had told Matthew Werenczak that his only chance for reinstatement was to undergo a special course of diversity training and counseling for “anger management”—all because he expressed annoyance over a community leader’s complaint that student teachers were coming from Syracuse rather than historically black colleges. Within hours of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) bringing his case to […]

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  • Syracuse Folds on Ed Student’s Expulsion

    January 19, 2012

    Things have moved quickly at Syracuse University since FIRE issued its press release yesterday calling out Syracuse’s appalling treatment of graduate student Matthew Werenczak. As we reported, Werenczak was effectively expelled from Syracuse’s School of Education (SOE) after posting a comment on his Facebook page in response to a racially tinged remark made by a local official visiting a school where Werenczak was working as a tutor. When the SOE got wind of this, it removed him from his student teaching assignments and gave him two unappealing choices to avoid expulsion: withdraw immediately from the program, or submit to a […]

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  • Syracuse Expels Ed Student for Complaining on Facebook about Racial Comment

    January 18, 2012

    Here’s our press release today: SYRACUSE, N.Y., January 18, 2012—Syracuse University’s School of Education has effectively expelled a graduate student from its teaching program after he complained on Facebook about a racially charged comment made in his presence by a community leader. Syracuse told Matthew Werenczak that his only chance for reinstatement was to undergo a special course of diversity training and counseling for “anger management”—all because he expressed annoyance over a community leader’s complaint that student teachers were coming from Syracuse rather than historically black colleges. After completing all requirements but still being denied readmission, Werenczak turned to the […]

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  • Syracuse Expels Ed Student for Complaining on Facebook about Racial Comment

    January 18, 2012

    SYRACUSE, N.Y., January 18, 2012—Syracuse University’s School of Education has effectively expelled a graduate student from its teaching program after he complained on Facebook about a racially charged comment made in his presence by a community leader. Syracuse told Matthew Werenczak that his only chance for reinstatement was to undergo a special course of diversity training and counseling for “anger management”—all because he expressed annoyance over a community leader’s complaint that student teachers were coming from Syracuse rather than historically black colleges. After completing all requirements but still being denied readmission, Werenczak turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in […]

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