TCU's 'robust commitment to free speech' (unless it offends someone on the Internet)

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Ken White, over on, tells the tale of Harry Vincent, a student at Texas Christian University who was suspended recently for being an offensive online jerk:

Harry Vincent is a 19-year-old college student and kind of a [d-]. That's banal. Lots of 19-year-olds are [d-s], and many of them are college students. Harry Vincent is notable because he has been struck by proverbial lightning—he offended someone online, and that person had the inclination and free time to complain about him to his university, and his university had the [s–] values and utter lack of proportion or good sense to punish him for it. . . .

For posting things like

"These hoodrat criminals in Baltimore need to be shipped off and exiled to the sahara desert. Maybe then they'll realize how much we provide for them (welfare, college tuition, obama's phone, medicare, etc.)"

Vincent caught the attention of a woman in Maryland who encouraged her Tumblr readers to complain to TCU about him, which they did. As White notes:

Harry wasn't speaking on behalf of TCU, or using their Twitter account, or talking to or about TCU students, and wasn't a TCU public relations official or anything. This person "Kelsey" apparently just felt that [a–s] shouldn't go to college. . . . Normally this wouldn't be a problem. If sensible people had received Kelsey's complaints of private-time toolbaggery by Harry, they would have shaken their heads and gone back to whatever it is that the hideously swollen academic-administrative class does all day.

But TCU appears to lack sensible people. The TCU Office of Student Life found that Vincent had violated two student conduct code provisions, relating to "Infliction of Bodily or Emotional Harm" and "Disorderly Conduct"—really!!—and suspended him through Aug. 15, 2016, after which he will be placed on "Disciplinary Probation" through his graduation from TCU; under the terms of his suspension, Vincent cannot reside on campus, participate in any extracurricular activities or utilize any non-academic facilities on campus, and he is required (naturally!) to complete a course on "Issues in Diversity," complete 60 hours of community service, and meet with a dean on a regular basis.

TCU should be ashamed of itself—see the letter sent by the FIRE to TCU about the incident. As a private institution, it's not bound, of course, by the First Amendment—but, as FIRE points out, it claims to celebrate free speech, and ought not to if it's going to act like this. FIRE even has a link that lets you send TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini an e-mail protesting the university's actions.

White goes even further:

TCU deserves scorn for this. They deserve an object lesson as well. If TCU thinks that it ought to regulate its students' private speech when the fragile [people] of the internet object to it, why not take TCU at its word and help it along? I'm sure it will be easy to identify TCU students on social media and comment sections and blogs. Why not examine what they say, and write to the administration of TCU if it irks anyone? I'm not just talking about Harry Vincent's sophomoric twaddle. For every TCU student who says #blacklivesmatter, someone ought to write TCU protesting that #alllivesmatter. . . . For every student who says something unflattering about Israel there ought to be an angry email. For every off-color joke, there should be a statement about the over-sexualization of society. For every student who makes a hurtful remark about political groups, TCU's administrators ought to get a missive from a Concerned Person.

Maybe it's ridiculous to take personal offense at those things, you might say. Well, you might think so. But TCU is clearly interested in how random internet citizens feel about their students and their words. How can we not help them along? You can find email addresses here. Be polite.