‘We will cease any practice that is not in compliance with the First Amendment as applicable to social media comments’
Pro-life student Madison Evans is free to criticize Planned Parenthood events on campus following intervention from a free speech legal group.
McLennan Community College agreed to restore a comment Evans left on an Instagram post promoting an event with Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion vendor. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression had sent a letter to the Waco school and asked it to stop its censorship of pro-life speech.
President Johnette McKown responded at the end of November:
In response to your letter dated November 17, 2023, McLennan Community College confirms that [the school has] restored Madison Evans’ comment to CREW’s Instagram post.
We are committed to allowing speech that is protected under the First Amendment and will be reviewing policies and practices related to social media content and comments to ensure we comply with the First Amendment. We will cease any practice that is not in compliance with the First Amendment as applicable to social media comments.
The Instagram administrators added a disclosure to the initial Oct. 16 post:
The views, information and/or opinions expressed in public comments are solely those of the individual making the public comment and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of or official position of McLennan Community College or any of its employees or Board members. McLennan Community College is not responsible for and does not verify the accuracy of any information contained in any public comment.
Evans had written “the murder of innocent babies is not a great resource ever. as a student i am disappointed & disgusted that murder of innocent lives is being encouraged,” on the Oct. 16 post from the school’s Campus Resources Education Web.
The college removed the comment and spoke to Evans soon after. “MCC’s social media accounts are not appropriate platforms for expressing concerns about the values of another community organization,” Associate Director of Marketing and Communications Jennifer Norman told Evans, according to FIRE’s letter.
The administrators’ decision to remove a “critical yet relevant comment” represented “textbook viewpoint discrimination,” FIRE previously wrote.
University officials “may not suppress disfavored views when moderating social media commentary on accounts open to public posts.”
“Nothing in the law requires public colleges to manage an Instagram account, but the law does impose obligations when they choose to do so,” FIRE wrote last month.
CREW is an on-campus resource for students who need help with “basic needs,” such as food and housing, according to the community college’s website.
The office “evaluates the needs of students at MCC and works with community partners to create a basic needs safety net for individuals working to improve their future trajectories.”
IMAGE: McLennan Community College/Instagram