American University: Administrators Investigate “Black people suck” Message on Library Whiteboard


American University

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Case Overview


On February 20, 2023, American University announced it had investigated and unmasked an anonymous student who wrote “Black people suck” on a university library whiteboard. American announced it would investigate to determine whether the message violated the university’s code of conduct and if the student should be punished. On February 21, FIRE wrote American urging it to drop the investigation because the message is protected by the university’s strong commitment to student free expression — a commitment American has broken in the last year by repeatedly investigating student speech. American responded to FIRE on March 8, stating that it investigates all reports to the university. On March 16, FIRE replied explaining that while the university may (or in some instances, be required to) conduct a preliminary internal review of all reports, it violates expressive rights when it announces an investigation into allegations involving nothing more than clearly protected expression.