Student Says TCU Lifts Suspension for Social Media Comments

August 6, 2015

By Deanna Boyd at Star Telegram

The suspension against a TCU student who made what some deemed offensive remarks on social media has been lifted, the student said Thursday.

Harry Vincent, 19, said Chancellor Victor Boschini called him Wednesday afternoon to say he had reviewed Vincent’s case and felt the discipline was too harsh.

Vincent, however, said he still must do 60 hours of community service and attend a diversity course. He will be on probation for a year rather than until he graduates.

“Overall, I’m obviously happy that they took some action to right a big wrong,” Vincent said. “However, I do wish they would have realized that no punishment is deserved for speaking my mind. Overall, I’m not suspended anymore, so I’ll take whatever I can get at the end of the day.”

A TCU spokeswoman said in an email Thursday that the university cannot discuss the specifics of disciplinary action against any student, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Vincent told the Star-Telegram last week that he felt he was unfairly punished after TCU was alerted to some of his comments on social media, mostly Twitter, on events such as the Baltimore riots and the rise of the Islamic State.

They included saying “#Baltimore in 4 words: poor uneducated druggy hoodrats,” remarking that someone had been reincarnated as a “b—–” (a slur against Mexicans) and saying, “Almost as tan as a terrorist. Going to be thoroughly disappointed if I’m not racially profiled on my trip to gulf shores.”

Vincent accused a childhood acquaintance of sparking the university’s investigation after she posted screen shots of Vincent’s comments on her Tumblr page and urged her followers to contact TCU and “expose him.”

Vincent has said his comments were taken out of context and were not racist. He said he regrets using the slur against Mexicans, saying he didn’t realize it was derogatory.

Vincent said the punishment levied by Glory Robinson, associate dean of students, included a suspension in abeyance, meaning that for the next year, he could only attend classes or visit the school library. He could not live on campus or attend sporting events and other activities and would have to drop out of his fraternity for a year.

A TCU appeals panel upheld the sanctions.

Vincent’s case drew national media attention after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent a letter to Boschini last week, saying it was “deeply concerned by the threat to freedom of expression posed by the disciplinary action” and was “asking for the university to reverse the sanctions.”

The university issued this statement last week:

“TCU expects its students to behave in a manner consistent with its mission, which is to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in a global community,” the statement read. “When students’ conduct violates the university’s behavioral standards, they are subject to a disciplinary process, and will be held accountable for their actions.”

Vincent said it’s frustrating that “it took pressure from the American people, media and alumni two months after the decision was made” for the chancellor to intervene.

Though he strongly considered not returning to TCU, Vincent said Thursday that he plans to come back.

“I told him in order for my return I would need to be assured Glory Robinson is not involved in any matters involving me for the rest of my time at TCU,” Vincent said. “The chancellor assured me that she wouldn’t.”

Vincent urged others not to apologize for “being a leader in a pack of sheep” and not to underestimate the power of activism.

“Stand strong in your beliefs and don’t let anyone try to quiet your opinion,” he said. “We are entitled to our freedom of speech, and we can’t sit back and allow institutions such as TCU to attempt to silence us.”

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655

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Schools: Texas Christian University Cases: Texas Christian University: Student Suspended for Social Media Posts