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UChicago Facebook Controversy Continued

Yesterday, I blogged about my Facebook incident that FIRE has brought attention to. Today, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece on the subject as well.

For FIRE’s overview of the case and opinion click here.

I talked to the Chronicle reporter briefly as she was making her inquiries. She asked me if I was concerned this story would hurt future job prospects. Honestly, I hadn’t really thought of this as I believed (and still do) that the transcript, picture of the status updates, and the ludicrous nature of some of the UCPD’s inquiries justified me wanting clarification of the investigation’s extent.

I very much understand the importance of campus police in protecting university students, faculty, and staff. So, putting aside whether the UCPD actively monitors student online content, I respect the UCPD wanting to talk to me about my status update. That said, I became perplexed at what occurred when I was being investigated; specifically, the personal questions that came from the officer and the willingness to call the entire investigation off as long as I removed the comment. If anything, this seems like a dereliction of duty by the UCPD if my comment was deemed a legitimate threat.  That the UCPD would threaten me academically if I did not remove the comment also seemed out-of-line.

On the Chronicle page, someone commented that I’m “seeking protection as free speech”. I’m not seeking protection at all. The case was effectively dropped (seemingly) because of it being fanciful and invalid. Again, I would never have even contacted FIRE if the UCPD had been lucid on what its practices are. I’m seeking answers. I’m not in trouble.

When the Chronicle reporter asked me if I planned any legal action against the university, I immediately gave an adamant “no” (for the record, FIRE never pursues litigation). I love my university; there are amazing, passionate students and faculty here. I only want what’s best for my university. In this case, I feel that it would be to my and fellow student’s benefit if the university would clarify the following:

  1. Does the UCPD or has the UCPD at any point monitored or even perused student comments on social networking websites like Twitter or Facebook?
  2. To what extent does the UCPD investigate flagged comments and what is the proper conduct of the UCPD in questioning the student who made such comment? E.g. threatening the student academically?

On a personal level, I want an explanation for the inconsistencies and some of the inquiries made by the UCPD in my case. Pertaining to the general body, I desire elucidation of university practices and conduct in respect of student privacy and individual rights.

I never thought and still do not think this incident being publicly espoused will haunt me. I honestly hope that by clarifying its policies the university will have an improved campus environment. Correspondingly, I do not seek to simply chastise the university publicly and go on cry “injustice” regarding freedom of speech so I’d get some two seconds of fame (or a day of Twitter retweets). No. This was never about that. If anything, this is only the beginning of positive steps towards reform at the university. I had heard complaints in the past from fellow students about the university’s conduct toward online content; yet, I didn’t ever give the situation a second of my time. I regret not doing so beforehand. It took a situation like this to wake me up.

Thus, I plan at the beginning of this next quarter to meet with administrators to discuss my personal case. Moreover, and more importantly, many friends who have various interests and definitely different politics would like us to meet with administrators to discuss the prospects of a student bill of rights. By the administration working with concerned students, clarifying its policies, and enacting proper reform, such could only be for the benefit of the university and serve as a testament to its commitment to open discourse and academic freedom.


One Response to “UChicago Facebook Controversy Continued”
  1. Tim says:

    Hey man. I’m on your side. I’m a former summer intern for FIRE, student at the University of Illinois, and my girlfriend is a student at U of C. Keep up the good work over there!

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