University of Utah: Student Arrested, Investigated, Then Cleared for Nuclear Meltdown Joke


University of Utah

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Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

In September 2022, University of Utah student Meredith Miller posted on the social media platform YikYak, “if we don’t win today,” referencing the university’s football team, “I’m detonating the nuclear reactor on campus.” After identifying Miller as the source of the post, campus police arrested her on September 21, released her later that night, and charged her with making a terroristic threat. FIRE wrote the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office on September 23 urging it to drop the charge, which rested on expression that was clearly a joke. We also argued that the reactor itself was not a weapon of mass destruction, and it can’t be detonated. (The size of a microwave, it doesn’t release dangerous levels of radioactivity and is so safe students can stand near it for prolonged periods.) The DA’s office dropped the charge but the university considered suspending Miller for two years. FIRE thus wrote the university on December 27 demanding it end any investigation of Miller and forgo punishment. In February 2023, after a hearing and with the help of FIRE and an attorney, the university agreed it would not punish Miller.