Free Speech Rights Degrading Left And Right
And it's not just our right to free speech, but our culture as a place of free speech, and the valuing of free speech as a way to maintain a healthy, democratic society.
Erica Goldberg writes at campus free speech defender TheFIRE.org (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) of yet another college administration punishing a student for his speech -- and the most innocuous speech at that:
Roman Caple, the graduating senior at St. Augustine's College (North Carolina) ... was denied the ability to walk at his graduation because of what the college called "a negative social media exchange" in a letter to Caple. Given no specific information, Roman could not discern exactly why the college required him to pick up his degree from the campus security booth instead of allowing him to participate in his graduation ceremony. Roman told news sources that he believed the university was punishing him for a post on his personal Facebook page, written after a deadly tornado that struck Raleigh, North Carolina, that said, "St. Augs is holding classes tomorrow and students in Falcrest still don't have power. Like, wtf. Really? #dumb."Unbelievably, the college accused him of trying to "create chaos."
As innocuous as this Facebook post is, the college recently told media outlets their real reason for punishing Caple, and it's even more offensive to free speech principles. In a statement to The Huffington Post, St. Augustine's College claimed that Caple posted "inappropriate comments" to the school's official Facebook page that it uses to communicate with students. The college provided a screenshot of one of these comments:
Moreover, the college's justification for its punishment displays a shocking ignorance of free speech principles. Caple's Facebook post cannot be described as "incitement," as he was certainly not provoking students to engage in imminent lawless action. (Incitement to what, St. Augustine's, provide documents?) At most, Caple was expressing an opinion in an attempt to influence students' beliefs and behavior--the very purpose of having free speech.
On a side note, perhaps Caple just posted way too fast, but the guy doesn't seem to have the greatest command of English as a graduating college senior. Exclamation points galore, also -- the mark of a lovesick, Hello Kitty'd-up 14-year-old girl.