Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) student Marc Bechtol learned this morning that all charges against him have been dropped and he is free to step foot on campus. Bechtol was pulled out of his classroom last week, suspended for two semesters, and banned from campus without a hearing after he complained on Facebook about his school’s aggressive marketing of a debit card company to its students. Despite CVCC’s decision to rescind Bechtol’s punishment, problems remain, as Bechtol is still required to notify the college before using computers on campus. CVCC also has failed to revise the unconstitutional policy it used to punish him and has not rescinded its claim that the Facebook comment was a policy violation.
In a recording of today’s disciplinary meeting, Bechtol and CVCC officials agreed that this letter includes no discipline and ‘essentially drops the case’ and ‘closes the book.’ Although today’s document from CVCC notes that Bechtol earlier had suggested that he might accept various forms of discipline in order to save his academic career after CVCC’s unconstitutional punishment, Bechtol did not agree to any such discipline. He did not change his "seated" classes to online classes, and he has not been blocked from CVCC’s social media.
So long as CVCC has an unconstitutionally vague policy and is interpreting protected speech as a violation of that policy, CVCC has serious work to do to uphold the Bill of Rights on campus. FIRE will continue to closely monitor free speech at CVCC.