Facebook rant results in student’s suspension

October 14, 2011

HICKORY, N.C. – A Facebook post has gotten a Catawba Valley Community College student suspended and banned from campus.

Marketing student Marc Bechtol said it was satire and free speech, but the college isn’t laughing.

It all started with Catawba Valley Community College’s branded debit card. It doubles as Bechtol’s student identification.

It’s something he said he told the school he didn’t want.

It’s also something that came anyway, asking Bechtol to verify personal information he didn’t want a financial services company to have.

Bechtol said he activated it because, according to the card literature, it was the only way he could get his grant money.

He say the next thing he knew, a credit card offer from a different bank was in his CVCC inbox.

"No coincidence here. I never get credit card offers through that school box, but it happened the day after the card was activated," Bechtol said.

That ticked him off. So, he took to Facebook.

"Anyone else’s inbox full of spam today? I wonder if they’d like it if we register them with every porn site known to man. Anyone know of any good viruses we could send them?" he posted.

He immediately followed up with this post: "OK, maybe that would be a bit excessive."

Bechtol said it was satire.

"There was no intent to do anything, no follow up act to do anything. Obviously I was venting frustration," he said.

CVCC didn’t find it funny.

In a letter, CVCC called Bechtol’s Facebook post "disturbing" and "indicates possible malicious action against the college."

It also said Bechtol violated CVCC’s student conduct policy and that he’s suspended for two semesters plus banned from the CVCC campus.

"They even threatened to have me arrested while leaving," Bechtol said.

Now, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is stepping in, claiming Bechtol’s Facebook posts are protected speech, and asking CVCC to end Bechtol’s discipline.

"They’re using this to silence a dissenter," Bechtol said about CVCC.

Bechtol said FIRE called CVCC Wednesday and after that, CVCC called him to tell him he can come to class Thursday.

Bechtol said he has not heard that his suspension has been lifted though.

CVCC said they’re involved in Bechtol’s due process at this time and can’t comment.