Students and faculty punished for their social media use keep showing up in litigation against universities.
The latest case, involving a University of Kansas student who was expelled for calling his unnamed ex-girlfriend a “psycho bitch” on Twitter, has drawn a joint brief from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and Student Press Law Center.
FIRE says in a blog post that there wasn’t even a hint of threat against the ex, to say nothing of a punishable “true threat”:
The tweets never mentioned his ex’s name and were not sent to her; she was, in fact, blocked from his Twitter feed. Nonetheless, the university expelled [Navid] Yeasin, asserting that his tweets violated the no-contact order it had imposed on him in a separate disciplinary proceeding. Although the no-contact order originally prohibited Yeasin from making contact with his ex, the university later broadened its scope in an email to Yeasin, prohibiting him from making any reference to her on social media, even if it did not contain her name and was not directed at her.
Their brief to the Kansas Court of Appeals, which is hearing the school’s appeal of its loss in a lower court, eviscerates KU’s claim that it’s just enforcing Title IX anti-harassment policies:
The widespread abuse of harassment policies under the banner of Title IX enforcement signals to students and faculty that colleges and universities are no longer safe for free speech. The misapplication of Title IX and other anti-harassment statutes affects the speakers directly and also chills other would-be speakers by signaling that engaging in controversial, dissenting, unpopular, or merely inconvenient expression may lead to investigation and discipline. In an atmosphere where students and faculty do not feel free to express and debate different views, ideas, and opinions, the creation and development of knowledge will grind to a halt, to the detriment of not only the university community but also society as a whole.