By Jeff Mosier at The Dallas Morning News
Texas Christian University has backtracked on its punishment of a student disciplined for tweets that the Fort Worth institution deemed offensive, the student said Wednesday.
Harry Vincent, 19, announced on Twitter that TCU has dropped his suspension but that he remains on disciplinary probation.
The initial “suspension in abeyance” would have allowed him to continue taking classes. But he couldn’t attend co-curricular activities, including fraternity functions and sporting events. The punishment also included a ban on visiting dormitories or using TCU’s recreation center.
Those restrictions have been lifted, Vincent said.
Citing federal privacy law, TCU spokeswoman Holly Ellman said she couldn’t comment on the case.
Vincent, who grew up in Maryland, was punished for Twitter comments that used an anti-Mexican slur and said “stop islam 2k15.” Some tweets were perceived as racially insensitive, such as one that said “hoodrat criminals” in Baltimore should be shipped to the Sahara Desert.
The complaint against Vincent originated with a former classmate from Maryland with whom he had sparred over politics and current events on Twitter.
The ex-classmate used her Tumblr account to launch a campaign to have TCU punish Vincent for his comments.
Vincent’s appeal of the initial punishment was denied by a university panel. As a private university, TCU isn’t bound by the First Amendment’s speech protections.
The case became public when it was championed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which often fights for students and university employees disciplined for public comments.
“FIRE is pleased that the suspension has been lifted but maintains that any disciplinary action based solely on the content of Vincent’s tweets is inappropriate,” the foundation said in a prepared statement.
In tweeting news that his suspension had been lifted, Vincent added the hashtag #freedomwins. Since the controversy, he has changed his Twitter profile picture to one with him posing with a black female friend and updated his profile to include his support for Ben Carson, a black doctor seeking the Republican presidential nomination.