Ashley Dobson at Red Alert Politics
This situation at the University of Tulsa is unbelievable.
The school has decided to ignore all constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of the press and due process as they prevent a student from graduating for Facebook posts written by someone else.
“The University of Tulsa’s speech police are putting in some serious overtime on this case,” Peter Bonilla, Director of the Individual Rights Defense Program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said in a statement on the organization’s blog.
“Punishing someone for the speech of a friend or relative might be par for the course in a dictatorship, but it has no place on our nation’s college campuses. Worse, TU wants to hide how it’s ignoring its own rules from the oversight of campus courts or the student press.”
According to FIRE, the University of Tulsa suspended student George “Trey” Barnett last October for three Facebook posts published by his husband that criticized another student and two TU faculty members.
None of the Facebook posts came from Barnett’s account. All of the statements were posted directly by his husband and Barnett was either tagged in them or they were on his Facebook wall. Barnett’s husband has even submitted a sworn affidavit attesting to his sole authorship of the posts, FIRE said on its blog.
But that doesn’t matter to the school. Once a professor filed a complaint against Barnett because of them, arguing that Barnett could not “avoid responsibility” because someone else was responsible for the posts, the school quickly took the side of the professor.
Barnett was never given a hearing, despite the school’s own policy about having one, but he faced eight sanctions. The sanctions included suspending his participation in certain courses and activities and even barring him from speaking about certain individuals, according to FIRE. The school said Barnett was guilty of “harassment.”
The eight sanctions without a hearing were already against school policy, but it got worse for Barnett. Less than two months before he was set to graduate, he was suspended until 2016 and permanently banned from ever receiving a degree in his major even if he re-enrolled. He was denied an appeal without any explanation, FIRE reported.
The school’s newspaper, The Collegian, attempted to report on the incident, but university officials threatened the staffers and said they would take action against them if “anything that the university deems to be confidential.”
“TU students are right to be concerned about their free speech and due process rights, given the university’s sheer vindictiveness in banishing Barnett and its treatment of their student newspaper,” said Bonilla.
“We’ve warned TU about its dangerously overbroad harassment policy before, yet it continues to fly in the face of its promise that students retain ‘the rights and privileges granted to all citizens in the Bill of Rights.’ The university needs to be held accountable for breaking that promise.”
Universities across the nation have a tough time allowing free speech to prevail, but this is