Free Speech Controversy at Christian College

If you haven’t seen the recent flap over a Texas Christian University student’s Twitter controversy, it’s worth looking into. In a country where liberal colleges both public and private are hiring radical extremists as professors, conservatives must keep an ear to the ground. Whether you are attending school yourself, have kids going into college, or are simply concerned about the future of academia, every story matters.

This time around, the subject of controversy is a TCU student named Harry Vincent. Vincent fell under scrutiny when a Tumblr user complained to university officials about the former’s Twitter account. At issue were a handful of tweets that violated the left’s precious political correctness:

– “#Baltimore in 4 words: poor uneducated druggy hoodrats”

– “This is clearly not a religion of peace. Stop islam 2k15, enough is enough! @BarackObama needs to step up and take action”

– “Almost as tan as a terrorist. Going to be thoroughly disappointed if I’m not racially profiled on my trip to gulf shores.”

Upon seeing the tweets, university officials informed the 19-year-old that he had violated the school’s Code of Conduct policies. As punishment, he was “suspended under abeyance,” meaning he was banned from living on campus or participating in the school’s extra-curricular activities. He was also placed on disciplinary probation for the remainder of his academic career.

Once the press got wind of the story, though, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education got involved. Together with a legion of conservative supporters, they have successfully pressured Texas Christian officials to drop the most serious of the punishments.

“Have been reinstated as a student at #TCU under disciplinary probation- no suspension. Thanks for all the support #FreedomWins,” read a celebratory tweet from Vincent. He said he received a personal call at home from TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini, who told him that he had decided the punishment was too harsh after reviewing the case.

”Stand strong in your beliefs and don’t let anyone try to quiet your opinion,” Vincent said in a statement. “We are entitled to our freedom of speech and we can’t sit back and allow institutions such as TCU to attempt to silence us.”

Obviously, the First Amendment does not mean a private university cannot have its own code of conduct. It applies only to speech censored by the government. That said, the ideals of free speech go beyond our constitutional rights. Colleges, in particular, should be very careful when infringing on those rights, if only because it hinders the free exchange of ideas.

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine what it was about Vincent’s tweets that deserved such a reaction. The first one about Baltimore is borderline, but is it factually wrong? The one about Islam is not offensive and the last one is clearly a joke. Unfortunately, when it comes to criticizing the left’s sacred cows, there is no room for humor or dissent. Conservatives won the day this time, but the battle is far from over.

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