University of Chicago: Facebook Photo Album Censored for "Disrespect"
The University of Chicago promotes freedom of expression in its Student Manual, writing, "At the University of Chicago, freedom of expression is vital to our shared goal of the pursuit of knowledge." However, when student Andrew Thompson posted photographs of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook.com within an album entitled "[Name of ex-girlfriend] cheated on me, and you're next!" Thompson was asked to delete the post. The Dean of Students in the College, Susan Art, informed Thompson that his ex-girlfriend had come to her and complained, and that the album needed to be removed. After deleting the album, Thompson asked if the school was allowed to prohibit internet speech, and was told by Art that the Student Manual gives her the ability to censor "disrespectful" speech. FIRE contacted the University, and was eventually told that since FIRE was not threatening litigation, the University of Chicago did not want to engage in any further discussion regarding the issue.
- "Phone Call to FIRE from University of Chicago Office of Legal Counsel," April 23, 2009
- "Response to FIRE from William Harms, Associate News Director, University of Chicago," April 9, 2009
- "FIRE letter to University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer," February 23, 2009
- "E-Mail Exchange between Andrew Thompson and Dean of Students Susan Art," January 21, 2009
- "E-Mail Exchange between Ex-Girlfriend and Dean of Students Susan Art," January 20, 2009
- "Andy Thompson's Facebook Photos," January 19, 2009
- "University of Chicago ‘Maroon’ Newspaper on FIRE and Free Speech," by Robert Shibley, May 14, 2009
- "University of Chicago Censors Student’s Facebook Photo Album," by Adam Kissel, May 5, 2009: A University of Chicago dean ordered a student to change the title of his Facebook.com photo album and remove pictures of his ex-girlfriend after she complained to the dean. Dean of Students Susan Art invoked the university's policy of "dignity and respect" in claiming the authority to police allegedly disrespectful off-campus speech, even when it appears on a personal Facebook page. Indeed, the university violates its own promises of free speech by maintaining a policy subjecting disrespectful speech to disciplinary action and a "bias incident" policy that encourages members of the university to report on the so-called biases of their neighbors. The University of Chicago has chilled speech across the campus and has refused to respond to FIRE's letter in defense of freedom of speech.
- "Civil liberties group says free speech not safe at U of C,"
by Michael Lipkin, Chicago Maroon, May 12, 2009
- "Group says U of C 'censored' student's Facebook album,"
by Peter Sachs, Chi Town Daily News, May 6, 2009