Campus Free Speech

Student Expelled Over Husband's Facebook Posts, Newspaper Censored for Asking Questions

Whirlwind of unfairness

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Tulsa
Wikimedia Commons

The University of Tulsa has broken every free speech rule in the book in its treatment of student George "Trey" Barnett, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Administrators suspended Barnett over statements his husband made on Facebook, banned Barnett from ever earning a degree in his field, broke TU's own dispute resolution policies, and even threatened student newspaper reporters with sanctions for covering the case.

It's a whirlwind of unfairness propagated by a private, Christian university that purports to grant Constitutional rights to its students.

The trouble began when Barnett's husband posted criticisms of other students and TU staff members on his Facebook page. The people in question were involved in a theatre production with Barnett, which led one of the criticized persons, professor Susan Barrett, to assume Barnett was actually behind the posts. She filed a harassment complaint against Barnett, which prompted administrators to suspend him from his courses and campus activities and bar him from publicizing his situation.

Barnett's husband signed a sworn affidavit that he, not Barnett, was solely responsible for the authorship of the posts. Even so, Barnett was found guilty and booted from campus a mere two months before his graduation. He is barred from returning until 2016. And even if re-enrolls, he is permanently banned from seeking a degree in musical theatre, which was his major.

FIRE alleges that TU's actions constitute a major abridgment of Barnett's free speech and due process rights.

But TU's brazen unfairness did not stop there. Administrators also muzzled the campus newspaper, The Collegian, after student-reporters wrote about the case. Collegian staffers were told that they would face disciplinary action if they published any "confidential" information. The paper wisely sought legal representation:

After the meeting, we contacted the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit that supports freedom of the press on college campuses and provides legal counsel for student journalists. SPLC contacted the university's lawyer on Jan. 28.

According to our contact at SPLC, it is TU's position that connecting the Facebook posts on Barnett's page with his suspension is an invasion of the privacy of the disciplinary process, and thus a violation of university policy.

In accordance with advice from the SPLC, we proceeded to write the story. At press time, it was not clear what course of action the university would take.

I reached out to TU's communications department to obtain the university's side of the story. If I hear back, I will share whatever justification is presented.

Good thing I'm not a TU student, or else I would be fearful of doing even that much.

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  1. Cue proggie hand-wringing and cognitive dissonance and head assplosions because the “perp” is gay. If it were a cis-whatever fratboy, they’d be all in favor of the university’s reaction, methinks.

    1. These here “free speech” folks need to learn that all speech has limits, and if you are involved in an inappropriate use of a God-given right, then you will be reminded of those limits. We have had to prosecute one speech hoodlum to put an end to some of them there “parody” abuses at NYU,

      http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

      and now we are seeing more of this abuse, which must be stopped, at Tulsa. America is on the cutting edge of a new era of appropriate speech enforcement, and this extends both to you and your family members, especially on some of these here university campus places where the recalcitrants are spreading words of anger and dissension beyond the level that we judge appropriate.

  2. Administrators suspended Barnett over statements his husband made on Facebook,

    See what gay marriage gets you?

    1. Yeah, I’d bet this was all a pretext to get rid of the gay guy.

      1. In the Musical Theater program? I’m guessing their’s a lot more gay guys there than just him.

        1. …there’s a lot more…

          Shit.

  3. The people in question were involved in a theatre production with Barnett, which led one of the criticized persons, professor Susan Barrett, to assume Barnett was actually behind the posts. She filed a harassment complaint against Barnett, which prompted administrators to suspend him from his courses and campus activities and bar him from publicizing his situation.

    Holy cow, this is like a progressive singularity, it’s sucking in all the derp around it…

    1. Yeah, it’s like a Titanic load of derp and hella hilarious/derp

  4. This fucking case is gay.

  5. It’s a whirlwind of unfairness propagated by a private, Christian university that purports to grant Constitutional rights to its students.

    While there is a historical connection between the University of Tulsa and the Presbyterian Church, I don’t think “Christian university” is an accurate description of the present state of the school.

  6. She filed a harassment complaint against Barnett…

    Naturally.

  7. I reached out to TU’s communications department to obtain the university’s side of the story. If I hear back, I will share whatever justification is presented.

    Oh, no! Rico is going to be barred from the University of Tulsa campus!

    1. Why would you contact the communications department? What the hell do they have to do with anything? The theatre department is a completely separate entity and that is easily verifiable on the TU website. What an idiot!

  8. Seriously? The U. of Tulsa has a musical theatre program? They should have seen this coming a hundred miles away.

  9. Colleges are such bastions of free thought and inwuiry these days. /sarc

  10. Do we have any word on what Barnett’s husband’s “criticism” actually was? Did he not like the play?

    1. Barrett’s complaint contains nothing except a general allegation and name calling. She talks about allegedly vicious personal attacks but does not tell us what those attacks are, other than suggesting that they are about Barnett and incidents involving him.

      This is obviously why colleges don’t allow students who are accused of politically correct misconduct to have attorneys. A good lawyer would make mincemeat out of this professor.

      1. Politically incorrect misconduct, that is.

  11. Justification? We don’t need no stinkin justification!

  12. Who needs a degree in musical theater? Just put on a show! Seriously, who checks credentials in a field like that?

  13. It’s a whirlwind of unfairness propagated by a private, Christian university that purports to grant Constitutional rights to its students.

    If you want to get technical, the school didn’t actually infringe on their Constitutional rights because the Constitution is only designed to protect us from government censorship, not censorship within private, voluntary associations, particularly religious ones.

    The school also owns the newspaper, so they’re free to dictate content within their newspaper if they so choose…as is anyone else who owns a newspaper.

    Devil’s always in the details.

    1. Undoubtedly they are fully privately funded and turn down all fafsa and ed subsidies

      1. The Constitution does not forbid government funding of persons and groups that try to muzzle speech- only making such speech muzzling a condition of funding.

  14. While I think the University of Tulsa (which I would think would be abbreviated as UT, not TU) is acting foolishly, it isn’t clear what contractual agreements exist between the school and the student, and the school and the (presumably student) newspaper reporters. The nature of that contract may or may not prohibit what has been said (although unless the student’s husband has some contractual arrangement with the school, such as living in student housing, the initial posting(s) themselves should be irrelevant). Unfortunately, those details are available here.

  15. A so-called Christian university.

    Q: Why are academic politics so vicious?

    A: Because the stakes are so low.

  16. Nothing like a little collective punishment to make sure everybody keeps their friends and family in line.

  17. I’m shocked that this much personal drama would come out of the Musical Theater department.

  18. First of all, this idiot did not do basic research – if he did, he can’t read. Barnett is not a musical theatre major. He is a design major with a musical theatre minor. Secondly, this did not occur during a production. That’s where it ended but it began months beforehand.

    Get your facts straight if you wish to have any credibilityl

  19. So basically they can’t handle criticism of any kind? Because that’s just wrong to expel student for something like that. It wasn’t even him who posted it. Forget freedom of speech and never post anything on social media if you want to survive today. A friend of mine had to hire original writers of essay because he was mad at her for a facebook post. Needless to say that things like this happen all the time. Don’t even think that your page is something personal, some people will seize every opportunity to ruin your life.

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