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TCU Reinstates Student Suspended for Facebook and Twitter Posts

Late yesterday, Texas Christian University (TCU) student Harry Vincent reported via Twitter that the institution has reversed a suspension levied against him in May for Twitter and Facebook posts about the protests in Baltimore, the threat of terrorism, and the spread of the “Islamic State” that offended individuals off campus. According to Vincent, although his suspension has been lifted, he remains on disciplinary probation. 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.

FIRE wrote TCU last week to protest Vincent’s suspension and issued a press release about Vincent’s ordeal last week. As we wrote in our press release:

TCU suspended student Harry Vincent for commentary posted to his personal Facebook and Twitter profiles related to current events, including the protests in Baltimore, the threat of terrorism, and the spread of the “Islamic State.” The suspension comes after a non-student, using the name “Kelsey” and apparently living in Maryland, created a post on her Tumblr page containing screenshots of a selection of Vincent’s posts. Kelsey labeled Vincent’s commentary “racist” and “disgusting” and asked readers to contact TCU to report his speech.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote to TCU today to urge the university to reverse the charges and sanctions applied to Vincent for his protected extracurricular expression. FIRE also expressed dismay with TCU’s violation of Vincent’s due process rights, which included coercing an apology from him prior to any determination of guilt.

“If TCU no longer believes student rights are important, it should just come out and say so,” said Ari Cohn, an attorney and Senior Program Officer for Legal and Public Advocacy at FIRE. “Tricking students into attending TCU by making glowing promises of free speech and due process rights—only to go back on those promises following unreasonable demands from someone who doesn’t even attend the school—is shocking and itself offensive to the most basic sense of fairness. TCU should reverse its action against Harry Vincent immediately.”

Following FIRE’s intervention, the case received media attention from a variety of outlets, including the Dallas/Fort Worth NBC affiliate, The Dallas Morning News, and Fox News’ Todd Starnes.

FIRE is pleased to learn of this result and will have more commentary on the case in the days to come.

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