Colorado College Suspends Student and Bars Entry For Two Years For An Anonymous Joke on Yik Yak

200px-Colorado_College_sealWe have another controversy over the regulation of speech on college campuses this week. Thaddeus Pryor has been suspended and banned from Colorado College for two years after he sent an anonymous reply on social media that was meant as a joke. Regardless of the fact that the joke was insulting and decidedly unfunny, it was an anonymous comment made by a student on the social media site Yik Yak without the use of university equipment or involvement. As such, it raises serious free speech implications in my view.

Rochelle Mason PhotoIn November 2015, Thaddeus Pryor sent an anonymous reply to the comment “#blackwomenmatter” on Yik Yak. Pryor’s response read, “They matter, they’re just not hot.” After posting the comment, Pryor was summoned to the office of Senior Associate Dean of Students Rochelle T. Mason. He did not lie and admitted to being the author of the posting.

The anonymous comment was deemed by the college as violating its rules on “Abusive Behavior” and “Disruption of College Activities” policies. The school invoked the right to punish any speech that ” produces ridicule, embarrassment, harassment, intimidation or other such result.” That is remarkably sweeping when it included embarrassment or “other such result.” Not only was he suspended and banned from campus but he was barred from taking classes at other institutions for academic credit. Pryor has appealed his suspension.

Yik_Yak_green_logo.svgThe College is not a state actor so it is not covered by the First Amendment. However, that does not lessen the free speech implications of a college regulating and punishing the speech of students or faculty on social media. There appears little consideration of the free speech implications in this decision or the definition of a line for students to determine when a comment, even an anonymous comment, could be deemed embarrassing or produce “other such result.” The result is a chilling effect on speech that is inimical to our academic mission in my view.

What do you think?

57 thoughts on “Colorado College Suspends Student and Bars Entry For Two Years For An Anonymous Joke on Yik Yak”

  1. Whatever happened to the constitution of human rights? I have the right of free speech (one each) when in my own home and own time. Whether or not someone is “hot” surely that lies in the eyes of the beholder? Personally I think black women are very hot.

  2. btw, chipkellyshouldgoogleleibniz, JT (as you so elegantly express your respect) is internationally recognized as a top constitutional scholar. i’m certain half of the universe is full of apologies if his every post does not embrace your particular beef with the world as it is, but life is funny that way. there are lots and lots of blogs you can troll about in … and my apologies as well, i’m allergic to trolls this winter.

  3. “I do not know if Colorado has any civil rights lawyers capable of handling this case. A case should be filed already seeking injunctive relief.” really? anyone still thinks colorado exists in the stone age? we did from ’77, when the repugs took over (not my fault – i was exiled from the state to nm & tx parochial schools – until I was bounced out for being unholy – !?!) until ’00 – when non-repugs took the state back and saved it from bankruptcy and foolishness and mayhem. YES, WE HAVE BRILLIANT ATTORNEYS HERE!!! i have no idea who colorado college is, but i fail to see how they can control whether this fellow can further his education for 2 years. how can they legally withhold his transcripts??? i smell rotten fish, and i’m certain this guy can set up a fundraiser for legal fees, (altho i can’t recommend GoFu$%Me at the moment) or hire an attorney on a contingent basis who would love to clean that college’s clock, or likely even engage the ACLU in Denver, with whom i personally worked for years, to grip co-co by its eensy-weensy balls and smush ’em. and btw, i’ve been accused of leftist-commie-pinko-socialism (ye rabid-rightist-rat-bastages), so anyone who wishes may put these comments in his or her closeted weedpipe and smoke ’em. screw ya and the donkey ya rode in on. lolol once again.

  4. “And now there is the flag incident at George Washington University. Will Professor Turley analyze that case?”

    All these other cases, JT posts about within several hours generally (especially if the topic relates to Muslims – just check out this San Bernadino attack). Therefore, the lag-time likely represents good old-fashion politics.

    Would you actually trust anything he says about that issue anyway??? Suppression of free speech related to anything Palestine has been an issue for decades and JT has given mere lip service to this significant issue… but is known as a “free speech advocate”…. haha as always for who?

    Not much principle here, so don’t expect much of an analysis. People on here don’t seem to consider Palestinians biologically human enough to recognize their human rights under international law and our own revolutionary principles. JT is a big support of our national gov. which routinely assists the Israelis to enforce their own brand of apartheid on the Palestinian people… why would he all-of-a-sudden become interested in a Palestinian’s right to free speech here in America… that person is not actually recognized as human in practice…

  5. tempest in a teapot? fart in a skillet.

    what students need to do is embrace such discipline and mock the feckless idiots who impose it.

  6. And now there is the flag incident at George Washington University. Will Professor Turley analyze that case?

  7. I have two words for Mr. Pryor ….TOR NETWORK.

    “Yik yak will reveal a user if a university or college asks.” REALLY?? They state in their FAQ….” Yik Yak can only respond to requests for user account information that are received directly from a law enforcement agency pursuant to appropriate legal process.” Since when does College Administration = Law Enforcement?

  8. “our academic mission” Haha humorous. This reeks of propaganda….

    Nonetheless, there is a serious concern of some level of a chilling effect on free speech after this case. More so for students than professors though.

    1. Carl-Edward – not if you are the student who cannot continue his education for 2 years.

  9. https://theintercept.com/2015/12/09/gw-palestinian-flag/

    Really… this is the central free speech controversy? We shouldn’t be surprised considering this blog’s warped ideology…

    I understand the leader of this blog is in a precarious position to discuss this issue, since there is an employment relationship with GW. However, silence as to this issue speaks to the blog’s alleged (and trumpeted) perspective as a principled voice on First Amendment (and Civil Liberty) issues… So while free speech and fighting for civil liberties is advertised, the practice appears to manifest these announcements, advertisements, titles, and claims, as mere propaganda.

  10. POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS WHEN THE COMMISSAR ENFORCES FOR THE PRESIDIUM.

    (They’re everywhere – look out for the political officer in your organization – he’ll grab you and educate you).

    pre·sid·i·um

    /priˈsidēəm,-ˈzid-/

    noun: presidium; plural noun: presidiums; noun: praesidium; plural noun: praesidiums

    a standing executive committee in a communist country.

    •the standing executive committee in the former Soviet Union, which functioned as the legislative authority when the Supreme Soviet was not sitting.
    noun: Presidium; noun: Praesidium

    __________

    com·mis·sar

    /ˈkäməˌsär/

    noun: commissar; plural noun: commissars

    an official of the Communist Party, especially in the former Soviet Union or present-day China, responsible for political education and organization.

    •a head of a government department in the former Soviet Union before 1946.

    •a strict or prescriptive figure of authority.

  11. BarkinDog – they don’t play in a major college conference so they cannot be worth spit anyway. 😉

  12. There is an old guy here at the marina who is talking about this topic this morning. He graduated from there in 1971. He is changing his Will today to revoke his gift upon his death to that school. He is giving his money to a Wildlife fund.

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