Valdosta State Case Gets More Attention

By January 14, 2008

The thoroughly unconstitutional expulsion of T. Hayden Barnes from Valdosta State University—mainly for his postings on Facebook.com protesting against new parking facilities on campus—has been getting some new attention since Barnes filed a lawsuit against the university. The story was picked up by the Courthouse News Service and by WALB of Albany, GA, on Thursday, these blogs on Friday, and the Athens Banner-Herald on Saturday.

The story also saw more blog attention over the weekend, briefly on Slashdot and at length on Mashable by Paul Glazowski.

Glazowski writes:

Such stories of controversy involving social networking sites are abundant—and will only continue to grow in number. I simply found this particular dispute to be especially worthwhile to mention, as it involves the topics of online protest and free speech.

Glazowski’s point is particularly timely now that YouDiligence, a “social network monitoring service,” is on the market. But I want to remark on the comment posted after Glazowski’s article by Anthony Hayes:

This student of COURSE has the right as a U.S. citizen to say whatever he wants as long as he’s not inciting violence or similar.

However, he does not have the right as a student of an accredited institution of higher learning to say whatever he feels about a faculty member without expecting a consequence related to his status as a enrolled student in good standing.

Framing this as simply an issue of “free speech” without discussing the context of the mores and acceptable limits of societal behavior vs. those of a university campus is sophomoric, at best.

Hayes misses the point: Valdosta State is a public university. This means that Valdosta State is constitutionally barred from interfering with Barnes’s student status because of what Barnes says about a faculty member or even the president of the university. That’s Free Speech 101—Hayes makes not a sophomoric but a freshman mistake.

Schools: Valdosta State University