Catawba Valley Community College: Student Banned from Campus after Protesting College's Deal with Debit Card Company on Facebook
In June 2011, Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) announced a partnership with the financial services company Higher One to provide debit cards to CVCC students. In response, CVCC student Marc Bechtol and other students criticized the partnership on CVCC's Facebook page. On September 28, Bechtol posted a critical message in which he joked, "I think we should register CVCC's address with every porn site known to man." One week later Bechtol was pulled out of his classroom and told not to return. On October 5, 2011, without a hearing, he was suspended for two semesters for violating the CVCC policy prohibiting any "offense which, in the opinion of the administration or faculty, may be contrary to the best interest of the CVCC community." FIRE has asked CVCC to immediately abandon its punishment of Bechtol and drop all disciplinary proceedings. Under national pressure from FIRE, CVCC abandoned its punishment of Bechtol but failed to acknowledge that the speech was protected.
- "Letter from CVCC Vice President of Student and Technology Services to Marc Bechtol, October 14, 2011," October 14, 2011: All charges against Marc Bechtol have been dropped and he is free to step foot on campus. Although this document from CVCC notes that Bechtol earlier had suggested that he might accept various forms of discipline in order to save his academic career after CVCC's unconstitutional punishment, Bechtol did not agree to any such discipline. He did not change his "seated" classes to online classes, and he has not been blocked from CVCC's social media. Problems remain: Bechtol is still required to notify the college before using computers on campus, CVCC has failed to revise the unconstitutional policy it used to punish him, and CVCC has not rescinded its claim that the Facebook comment was a policy violation.
- "Student Banned from Campus after Protesting College's Deal with Debit Card Company on Facebook," October 12, 2011: A North Carolina college student was pulled out of his classroom last week and banned from campus after he complained on Facebook about his school's aggressive marketing of a debit card company to its students. After officials at Catawba Valley Community College punished him for a satirical Facebook post deemed "contrary to the best interest of the CVCC community," Marc Bechtol came to FIRE for help.
- "FIRE Letter to Catawba Valley Community College President Garrett D. Hinshaw, October 10, 2011," October 10, 2011
- "Appeal Statement from Marc Bechtol, October 7, 2011," October 7, 2011
- "Notice of Suspension from CVCC to Marc Bechtol," October 5, 2011
- "Marc Bechtol's Comments on Catawba Valley Community College's Facebook page, September 28, 2011," September 28, 2011
- "Marc Bechtol Facebook Comment, September 16, 2011," September 16, 2011
- "CVCCOneCard Announcement ," June 20, 2011
- "CVCC Student Conduct Policy," February 10, 2011
- "Marc Bechtol: Prophet of Ill-Gotten Profit?," by Robert Shibley, August 9, 2012
- "‘Fee Speech’: When University-Bank Partnerships Silence Students," by Joseph Cohn, June 4, 2012
- "Thomas Jefferson Center Awards "Muzzles" to Censors at Catawba Valley, Sam Houston State ," by William Creeley, April 12, 2012: The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has awarded 2012 "Jefferson Muzzles"—an "award" that annually recognizes "egregious or ridiculous affronts to the First Amendment right of free speech"—to participants in two recent FIRE cases. Catawba Valley Community College administrators, Sam Houston State University professor Joe Kirk, and the Sam Houston State University police each earned their Muzzles by stifling student speech in shocking ways. FIRE sends congratulations on this well-earned "honor" to these deserving recipients!
- "'New York Times' Covers CVCC's Punishment of Student for Facebook Complaint," by Peter Bonilla, November 16, 2011
- "Editorial in 'Shelby Star' Drives the Point Home About CVCC Free Speech Case," by Azhar Majeed, October 20, 2011
- "'Shelby Star' on CVCC and Free Speech," by Joanna Brenner, October 19, 2011
- "Student Banned from Campus for Facebook Post Makes MSNBC and More," by Joanna Brenner, October 17, 2011
- "This Week in FIRE News: Victory for Student Banned from Campus for Facebook Post," by Joanna Brenner, October 14, 2011
- "Victory: Charges Dropped for North Carolina Student Banned from Campus, But Unconstitutional Policy Remains," by Adam Kissel, October 14, 2011: Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) student Marc Bechtol learned this morning that all charges against him have been dropped and he is free to step foot on campus. Bechtol was pulled out of his classroom last week, suspended for two semesters, and banned from campus without a hearing after he complained on Facebook about his school's aggressive marketing of a debit card company to its students. Despite CVCC's decision to rescind Bechtol's punishment, problems remain, as Bechtol is still required to notify the college before using computers on campus. CVCC also has failed to revise the unconstitutional policy it used to punish him and has not rescinded its claim that the Facebook comment was a policy violation. FIRE will continue to closely monitor free speech at CVCC.
- "Video of Student Banned from Campus for Facebook Post on WCNC, Charlotte," by Joanna Brenner, October 13, 2011
- "Adam in 'USA TODAY College' on Catawba Valley Case," by Robert Shibley, October 13, 2011
- "Some Students Grumble About Higher One's Debit Card Fees,"
by Ann Carrns, The New York Times, November 14, 2011
- "Do Cleveland County college students have freedom of speech on Facebook?,"
by Jordan-Ashley Baker, The Shelby Star, October 18, 2011
- "Student banned after debit card/student ID card complaint is reinstated,"
by Bob Sullivan, The Red Tape Chronicles, October 15, 2011
- "Facebook rant results in student's suspension,"
by David Ingram, NBC Universal, October 14, 2011
- "Student's Facebook post could get him kicked out of college,"
Gaston Gazette, October 14, 2011
- "Student suspended over Facebook post,"
United Press International, October 14, 2011
- "NC College Bans Student for Facebook Comment,"
by Staff Editorial, MyFOX8.com, October 13, 2011
- "Marc Bechtol, Cawtaba Valley Community College Student, Banned After Complaining About Branded Debit Cards,"
by Adam Kissel, The Huffington Post, October 13, 2011
- "College Bans Student for Complaining About Branded Debit Cards,"
by Lauri Apple, Gawker, October 13, 2011
- "CVCC Student Banned from Campus After Facebook Post,"
by Staff Editorial, FOX Charlotte, October 13, 2011
- "Student’s Facebook post could get him kicked out of school,"
WSOCTV.com, October 13, 2011
- "Facebook posting gets college student in trouble,"
by Steve Ohnesorge, WBTV.com, October 13, 2011
- "FIRE: Student banned from campus after Facebook post protests college’s deal with debit card company,"
by Adam Kissel, USA TODAY College, October 13, 2011
- "School bans student from campus after Facebook post ,"
by Tony Burbeck, WCNC.com, October 13, 2011