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DISCUSSION: Edgewood Students Risk Expulsion for Private Social Media Postings

These responses were sent to otenews@edgewood.edu:

Thank you for the very objective story on the lack of clear policy regarding the investigation. I have talked with several classmates (including one of your writers) about the incident and its resulting firestorm.

I am very concerned both with the rise of volatile rhetoric and, in contrast, with the hypersensitivity of the current sociopolitical climate. It will be interesting to see how Edgewood handles the delicate balancing act that is reducing hateful speech and rhetoric while also preserving First Amendment Rights. We don’t all have to agree with one another, or even like the media we consume, to understand the importance of preserving our rights. Obviously libel, slander, and threatening communications should not be tolerated, but there is no caveat that silences speech that hurts our feelings.

I understand that full disclosure into the incident in question is not likely to occur, or that you all may not ever be privy to that information. It is imperative, however, that we all know more in order to have a meaningful dialogue and to potentially influence the shaping of the new policy. For example, I would never defend overt hate speech, especially on a school sponsored event where conduct reflects directly on Edgewood and its population. On the contrary, I (and presumably other students) am concerned with the possibility that a student’s message is interpreted in the most sensitive context and that a student is scapegoated by an administration that needs to take a stand against hateful speech. These are delicate issues that would benefit from input from the entire Edgewood Community and I hope to follow continued coverage from On The Edge.

Michael Pflanzer, veteran student

Great job with the newspaper this year.  I appreciate the return of the printed copy and all of the great arts coverage, along with issues-oriented reporting, so important to our mission!

Julie Dunbar, professor of music

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6 Responses “DISCUSSION: Edgewood Students Risk Expulsion for Private Social Media Postings”

  1. Jared
    April 11, 2017 at 11:38 am

    There’s more important things in life to worry about. Grow up and drop it. Go work for a greater good instead of wasting my time and yours worrying about an issue that is of the least bit importance.

  2. Sabrina Fuller
    April 11, 2017 at 11:55 am

    I think Michael’s response is very well developed and correct. It is imperative that we know more before making a judgement on whether this is a case for outrage or praise. I know from my experience playing collegiate sports that compliance with certain rules and regulations at Edgewood Athletics-sponsored events fall into the category described by Mr. Chambers, and could be a possible situation which could have occurred. Athletes are required to sign multiple contracts pertaining to social media usage and conduct, as they reflect Edgewood’s image at these events. Whatever the circumstances, there needs to be more transparency before making any conclusions.

  3. Rusty Shackleford
    April 11, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    We can be expelled for our private social media postings?


    But seriously, what the hell?

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    To be fair, without releasing what was said exactly, Tony Chambers looks like the villain.

  4. Nat
    April 11, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Unfortunately, the First Amendment only refers to our government’s inability to punish unpopular or unfavorable opinions via exclusively legal or other government-controlled action. This does not protect you from censure from other private individuals or institutions, and this is a common misunderstanding of how the First Amendment works. You are entitled to protection from punishment by your government for what you say, but you are not protected from non-governmental consequences for what you say. This is especially apparent when you see articles in which an employee is legally fired from their job at a private company for engaging in speech that was unpopular or otherwise discouraged. Edgewood is a private institution and is not a government entity, therefore the college can address this issue as they see fit. While their decision either way may not be popular, they are within their legal rights as a private institution to expel students at their discretion for their speech. It is also important to note that most schools, including public schools, have restrictions on free speech within an educational setting, and there is legal precedent that backs a school’s ability to limit speech in a manner that the government proper cannot.

  5. Will Myrland
    April 11, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    First: The concept of “private social media” is an oxymoron, if you want something to be private, don’t include it in your social media posting.

    Additionally, we are allowed free speech, and we are all allowed to be assholes, but it is cowardly to cry amendment infringement when the victim(s) of your behavior calls you out for being an ass. This defense is a straw man argument, the issue is not that a student is being reprimanded for exercising their free speech, but for the negative effect that speech had on others.

    Regarding a portion of Michael’s response, specifically: “I am concerned with the possibility that a student’s message is interpreted in the most sensitive context”; why should we tolerate hate speech simply because we preface it with something like “it’s a joke”, or “it’s not to be taken seriously”? I believe that anyone who has been subjected to hate, racial or otherwise, might have an understandably negative reaction to a repeat offense, even in a joking context. It is dismissive, and lacking in empathy to cast aside those who have been wronged simply because they might be “interpreting [the message] in the most sensitive context”.

    Ultimately, hate speech should not be tolerated, and the “I didn’t mean it THAT way” loophole, should not be allowed to be exploited.

  6. Anon
    April 20, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Transparency is needed for this case…
    But, in regards to the sticky note situation earlier in the year it reflects how much we can exaggerated things. Was it in extreme distaste? Of course. But to be in the national news for something that was, in my opinion, minor, only brings bad attention to the College that we don’t deserve.

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