Cooper Medical School of Rowan University: Student Punished Under Unconstitutional Social Media Policy

Category: Cases, Free Speech
Schools: Rowan University

In January 2017, Cooper Medical of Rowan University (CMSRU) filed a “Professionalism Intervention Report” against a student in response to photographs posted to her personal Instagram account and comments she made on social media prior to matriculation. CMSRU officials objected to two images that could be seen together on the student’s Instagram home page: in one photo, the student is wearing her CMSRU white coat; in the other, the student is topless on a beach in Europe. The second photo was accompanied by a caption explaining the student’s appreciation for the beach’s policy allowing nudity and a reference to“#freethenipple,” a popular social media campaign to end perceived bias against the display of women’s nipples.

On May 9, 2017, FIRE wrote to CMSRU, calling on the university to revise its “Social Networking” policy and abandon its practice of punishing students for engaging in constitutionally protected expression. Following FIRE’s letter, CMSRU revised its policies for the 201718 academic year.

FIRE wrote to CMSRU again on October 6 to commend CMSRU for its new policy, and suggest further revisions.