Bergen Community College: Professor Sanctioned for Photo of Daughter in ‘Game of Thrones’ Shirt

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Bergen Community College

On January 12, 2014, Francis Schmidt, an art professor at New Jersey’s Bergen Community College, posted a picture on Google+ of his daughter wearing a T-shirt with a quote from “Game of Thrones.” When the picture was posted, Google+ sent an automatic email to Schmidt’s contacts, including a dean at BCC. BCC administrators told Schmidt that the email was threatening and placed him on leave without pay until a psychiatrist attested to his mental fitness. Upon reinstating Schmidt, BCC placed an official warning in his file and threatened him with “suspension and/or termination” if he made “disparaging” remarks about the college or acted in any way that BCC considered “unbecoming.” FIRE connected Schmidt with legal network member Derek Shaffer, and Gabriel Soledad, of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, who put pressure on BCC. On September 29, BCC admitted that it “may have unintentionally erred and potentially violated” Schmidt’s constitutional rights. BCC then removed all adverse records in connection with the situation from Schmidt’s file and assured Schmidt that the incident would not impact future employment or disciplinary proceedings.