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Censorship Education Your Rights Online

Student Expelled For Facebook Photo Description 415

flutterecho writes "A sophomore at Valdosta State University was expelled after criticizing his university's plan to build two new parking garages with student fees. In a letter apparently slipped under his dorm room door, Ronald Zaccari, the university's president, wrote that he 'present[ed] a clear and present danger to this campus' and referred to an image on the student's Facebook page which contained a threatening description. 'As additional evidence of the threat posed by Barnes, the document referred to a link he posted to his Facebook profile whose accompanying graphic read: "Shoot it. Upload it. Get famous. Project Spotlight is searching for the next big thing. Are you it?" It doesn't mention that Project Spotlight was an online digital video contest and that "shoot" in that context meant "record."' In a post-Virginia Tech world, has university surveillance of online identities gone too far?"
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Student Expelled For Facebook Photo Description

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  • by soupforare ( 542403 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:02AM (#22024224)
    The best part is that I'm sure he has absolutely no recourse because they're free to expel any student at any time per the handbook.
    • Perhaps the court of public opinion can lend a hand.
      • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Corwn of Amber ( 802933 ) <corwinofamber@sk y n e t . be> on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:47AM (#22024838) Journal
        This is not "online surveillance going too far". It's "Some universities employ complete morons who can't even read. This hazs serious consequenes, such as students expelled for non-reasons."

        Why is that news? Maybe sections with a counter in each, such as "$UNIVERSITY expels $STUDENT for reason $STUPID" would do it, with an index that links to each relevant article. Good idea for a web 2.0 news site, that.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Some universities employ complete morons who can't even read.
          So please enlighten me as to how being expelled from such a place is a bad thing.
          • Some countries... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by argent ( 18001 )
            Some countries employ complete morons who can't read, so explain how being deported is such a bad thing.

            Some companies employ complete morons who can't read, so explain how being fired is such a bad thing.

            Some insurance companies employ complete morons who can't read, so explain how losing your insurance is such a bad thing. ...
    • by Xaositecte ( 897197 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:17AM (#22024328) Journal
      Nah, given the circumstances, he'd be able to file a lawsuit, and be taken seriously enough for the college to settle out of court. It should be pretty simple to factor in reinstatement to the college (or enough $$$ in damages that he'll be able to comfortably finish up at another college without taking out student loans).
      • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:41AM (#22025220) Homepage
        He should even get them for false advertising. They surely mention good English courses somewhere in their advertisement material, and they weren't even able to read "shoot it" correctly in the context of photography.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by idiotnot ( 302133 )
        Settling is the last thing he should do. A settlement, while providing for him, does nothing to fix the mess that higher education has become, all hidden behind federal law. A public court case, however......

        Sunlight is the thing colleges fear the most, because it will show them to be gulags where freedom is only a faint notion.
    • by Mike89 ( 1006497 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:01AM (#22024528)
      Sorry to comment jack, but this happened to me too. Well, similar - I wrote a blog showing my annoyance at the school, primarily for the pathetic toilet facilities (which cost like $180, 000 to upgrade, with no improvement..), and that the disabled parking spot was turned into a Principal's parking spot.. I was called in two days later, told to clear out my locker and not come back. This was a month and a half before my final exams - which I was told I could sit elsewhere. (This is in Australia, by the way).
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by quarrel ( 194077 )
        Which Australian Uni was this?

        Almost all Uni's in Australia are government funded, and an attitude to free speech that is at least not as bad as that. I've taught at one of the Top-8 Uni's for quite a while (and was a student for more years than I care to remember), and find your story very hard to believe. You're way past the HECS census date (not that that should count for much over something so trivial), and they kick you out for criticising the toilets? Talk to your student union (what's left of them th
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cashman73 ( 855518 )
          Hate to point this out, but I don't think we're talking about another university here,... the fact that he referred to "Principal" and "locker" should indicate that he's talking about a high school. The rules do tend to be different between high school and college; for one, high school students are generally minors, having not reached the age of 18; most college students are adults, with full legal rights.
          • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @01:25PM (#22026088) Homepage

            Hate to point this out, but I don't think we're talking about another university here,... the fact that he referred to "Principal" and "locker" should indicate that he's talking about a high school. The rules do tend to be different between high school and college; for one, high school students are generally minors, having not reached the age of 18; most college students are adults, with full legal rights.

            Not quite. There's a bit of a language gap here, so bear with me:
            1) The sort of higher-education institution one attends between the ages of ~18 and ~21 is referred to as a "University" everywhere on the planet apart from the US, where a "College" is where one studies toward an undergraduate degree. Most US "Colleges" are also referred to as "Universities" because they also grant Post-Graduate degrees (also referred to as "graduate degrees" in the US, although you can easily see why this phrase is redundant and ambiguous).

            2) "College" in the UK most typically refers to a school attended between the ages of 16 and 18 to prepare/qualify students for study at a university, typically by taking A-Levels (similar to AP in the US, but a bit more sane). The UK's structure of what Americans refer to "High School" can be complicated, varies by geographic locale, although this term generally holds true. "Honors" programs at American High Schools that take place in the Junior/Senior years are somewhat comparable. Much of this terminology has crossed over into Australia, and many private 4-year "High Schools" call themselves colleges. Professional/vocational schools are also typically referred to as a "college," which is somewhat consistent with US usage.

            3) To add to the confusion, some smaller tertiary schools in Australia do call themselves colleges. This most likely arises from the original definition of the word "college" as "a group of colleagues". The US's beloved Electoral College is an example of this. Likewise, old large Universities in the UK such as Oxford, St Andrews, and Cambridge are subdivided into smaller "colleges". Much of the Ivy League has adopted a similar system in the hopes of appearing authentic.

            4) Generally speaking, the head of any educational institution in the UK is referred to as the "Principal", including both Universities, and primary and secondary schools. This term applies in virtually all of the Commonwealth countries (ie. all of the former British colonies apart from the US)

            5) Virtually all universities in the UK and Australia are publicly funded (as they should be!). They are not necessarily under direct governmental oversight, but would almost certainly be subject to large monetary penalties for such an egregious violation of the law.

            6) "Legal Adulthood" is not granted at the age of 18 around the world, as you would imply it is. It's not even defined at the age of 18 in the US, and falls under state jurisdiction. Although the age *is* 18 in Australia, England, and Wales, it's 16 in Scotland. In the US, various states have passed legislation to restrict the legal rights of its citizens by either raising the age to 19, 21, or making legal adulthood contingent upon graduating High School. This article [] on the subject should be enlightening.

            Hope that clears up any confusion floating around..... silly Americans for tweaking their language and measurement systems to make them incompatible with the rest of the English-speaking world.....

            Would you like chips with that?
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by digitrev ( 989335 )
              Just to add something else, in Canada, it's similar to the US, but not quite. And it also depends on where in the country you are. But I can tell you what it's like in Ontario.

              First off, there's kindergarten, which can be taken at the age of 4, and usually has to be taken when you're 5. Then elementary school starts at grade 1 when a kid is 6 (so long as he's six by the end of the year, not the school year). This goes up to grade 6. Then there's a kind of junior high in grades 7 and 8. Then high school f
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by belmolis ( 702863 )

                As a further complication, here in BC we have "university-colleges". These are colleges that have been upgraded to offer 4-year degrees under the aegis of a full university. They differ from universities in that they don't have their own charter as universities.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              Just to note, Americans were not "twisting" the meaning of college when they used it for the original colleges - they used it exactly as they meant. []
              Also, American English is closer to original Shakespearean usage:

              In some ways, American English is more like the English of Shakespeare than modern British English is. Some expressions that the British call "Americanisms" are in fact original British expressions that were preserved in the colonies while lost for a time in Britain (for example trash for rubbish, loan as a verb instead of lend, and fall for autumn; another example, frame-up, was re-imported into Britain through Hollywood gangster movies).

              It's you guys that screwed up our beautiful language ;)

            • Wrong (Score:5, Informative)

              by svunt ( 916464 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @04:55PM (#22027880) Homepage Journal
              In Australia, the head of a university is never called a principal, generally they are 'Vice-Chancellor'. I'm Australian, and - 'principals' and 'lockers' - yep, that's a high schooler talking.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by wiredlogic ( 135348 )
              The situation in the US isn't quite what you describe. While it is true that "college" is often used as a synonym for "university" that isn't always the case. A university is a union of multiple colleges. When you enroll, you join one of the colleges. It isn't far from the truth for a university student to describe themselves as going to college. Also, some smaller schools have a singular focus to the curriculum and consist of a single college or are labeled a technical institute. "University" is not an app
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by leenks ( 906881 )

              4) Generally speaking, the head of any educational institution in the UK is referred to as the "Principal", including both Universities, and primary and secondary schools. This term applies in virtually all of the Commonwealth countries (ie. all of the former British colonies apart from the US)

              The head of primary and secondary schools in the UK is known as the "head teacher", commonly shortened to "head". I have yet to hear the term "principal" here - having been through a number of UK schools myself, w

    • Relevant Case Law (Score:5, Informative)

      by thbarnes ( 782554 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @06:08PM (#22028428)
      Relevant Case Law

      42 U.S.C. Section 1983
      Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress... []

      Dwyer v. Oceanport School District
      School officials will pay a former student $117,500 to settle a lawsuit he filed claiming his First Amendment rights were violated after administrators punished him for material posted on his Web site. []

      Beidler v. North Thurston Sch. Dist
      A superior court judge ruled in July that the North Thurston County School District violated the constitutional rights of a student who was suspended for ridiculing a school administrator on his personal Web site. In late January 1999, the school principal placed Beidler on "emergency expulsion." According to Beidler, the principal told him some teachers said they felt uncomfortable about having Beidler in their classes due to the content of his website. The principal also testified that he found the website "personally appalling" and "real inappropriate. On July 18, 2000, a Washington trial court judge granted summary judgment to Beidler on his First Amendment claims. The judge first noted that the First Amendment rights of public school students remain constant even in the age of the Internet. "Today the first amendment protects student speech to the same extent as in 1979 or 1969, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Tinker." []

      Flaherty v. Keystone Oaks Sch. District
      A local school district has agreed to pay $60,000 in partial settlement of lawsuit brought by a former student who was kicked off the volleyball team because he posted an Internet message criticizing an art teacher, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania announced today. []

      O'Brien v. Westlake City Schools Board of Education
      Sean O'Brien, while a sixteen-year-old junior at Westlake High School, created a website in March 1998 that lampooned his band teacher Raymond Walczuk. His web page "" contained several unflattering comments about Walczuk. School officials settled with O'Brien by agreeing to pay him $30,000, expunging the suspension from his record and writing a letter of apology []

      Beussink v. Woodland R-IV School District
      Brandon Beussink, then a junior at Woodland High School, created his own homepage on his own computer at his own home. The homepage was "highly critical" of the school administration and included vulgar language in his opinions of teachers and the principal. The principal initially suspended Beussink for five days because he was offended by the content on the site, and he later extended the suspension to ten days. "Disliking or being upset by the content of a student's speech is not an acceptable justification for limiting student speech under Tinker," the judge wrote. []

      Mahaffey v. Aldrich
      An unpublished decis
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:11AM (#22024272) Journal
    I'm guessing that the student handbook disclaimer of "expel at will" could be dented by good legal representation.

    Lawsuit waiting to happen. I hope they've got a healthy endowment.

    Like me.

    (I'm sorry, I had to add that last bit. Yes, it's Sunday morning, but it was low-hanging fruit... Like mine. OK, I'll quit now.)
    • by The Second Horseman ( 121958 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:30AM (#22024736)
      It's likely to be reversed. It's a state school, so they have an additional legal obligation to not violate free speech and due process rules. Even with a private school, if they don't follow their written judicial procedures to the letter, they'll often lose. Schools like to tell students and their parents not to retain lawyers during internal judicial / discipline proceedings, saying it makes the process "adversarial". They're trying to kick you out or impose some other sanction. It's hard to imagine it getting any more adversarial than that.
    • by rjh ( 40933 ) <> on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:02AM (#22024928)
      It's a state university. That means they're bound by the Constitution and cannot expel students without affording them due process.

      Had this been a private school, he would have had utterly no recourse: expulsion at will for any reason, even none at all, is one of the perks (if you're an administrator) of being at a private school.
  • Streisand effect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by saibot834 ( 1061528 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:12AM (#22024288)
    Ever heard of the Streisand effect []?
  • Public University (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mwilliamson ( 672411 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:19AM (#22024342) Homepage Journal

    A public university is held to a different standard that a private institution in regards to being able to expel students for arbitrary and capricious reasons since public institutions are partially tax-funded. I wonder if the ACLU would like to step up to the plate on this one.

    I sure the hell wouldn't want to be in any way affiliated with such an oppressive institution. After he wins his case and gets his money back, he should consider an institution that upholds certain concepts like freedom of speech and independent thinking.

    • by Wellspring ( 111524 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:43AM (#22025234)
      The appropriate group would more likely be the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)-- and sure enough, looking at their site [], they already have picked it up. But the ACLU might get interested, too. If you go through the site, you'll see other similar cases. Most are political, but a few are exactly the same: student criticizes university, university bullies student into submission with non-judicial processes.

      The next link down on the site is a good example. An student took some courses at a community college, and ended up with a shitty professor. When he dropped the class, he emailed his classmates and asked if any wanted to take the course with him at another school. So the college charged him with "hazing, disorderly conduct, breach of the peace, and failure to comply with directions of a college official". The first he heard of it was when he was notified that he'd been found guilty. When he tried to appeal, he found out that appeals are reviewed by the same staffer who makes the rulings in the first place. Later, when FIRE came to his defense and it became a national story, the college dropped the charges, then quietly reinstated them based on brand new accusations of disruptions in class-- charges much harder for him to defend himself against because then it's a he-said, she-said situation.

      Colleges do this kind of stuff all the time. Even their so-called "judicial" processes are designed to look good on paper but completely betray the principles they teach in class.

      Many years ago, I served with the student judicial committee in the university I was at at the time. They regularly practiced all kinds of shenanigans; their favorite trick was to have an administrator come in after we'd gone into deliberations to present new evidence that only we would know about and that the accused wasn't even aware of. I never said a word about it at the time because it just didn't occur to me how unfair the system was. Since then, I've become deeply ashamed at my lack of judgment. The student chairman, who played along with the administration's tactics as well, went on to become a researcher specializing in civil liberties.

      Sleep well....
    • Re:Public University (Score:5, Informative)

      by six11 ( 579 ) <[johnsogg] [at] []> on Sunday January 13, 2008 @12:01PM (#22025380) Homepage

      From the parent:

      After he wins his case and gets his money back, he should consider an institution that upholds certain concepts like freedom of speech and independent thinking.

      It seems that Valdosta State does have an understanding of free speech, though.

      From the article:

      FIRE is simultaneously pressuring Valdosta State to reverse its "free speech area" policy, which is unusually rigid in restricting student expression to a single stage on the 168-acre campus, only between the hours of 12 and 1 p.m. and 5 and 6 p.m., with prior registration.

      Truly, an enlightened institution.

  • Luckily for him, he didn't write banzai anywhere in his profile.
    Otherwise he would have shipped straight to guantanamo resort with all that evidence he is a suicide bomber.
  • by wikinerd ( 809585 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:23AM (#22024370) Journal
    How do they know the students were not the victims of identity theft? A fellow student who hated them could very well set up fake Facebook accounts, fill them up with nasty photos, with the purpose of letting them to be discovered by the campus security. Even if a profile is owned by the students themselves, there is again no reason that a photo is not some kind of fake used for fun or just incorrect information as an inside joke between participants.
    • No denial (Score:3, Insightful)

      I don't know the case, but the most common reason to believe the information in this kind of cases is that the accused stand behind their words.

      As the student in this case is politically active, he is probably much more likely to grab an opportunity to defend himself, rather than go for denial.
  • by smaugy ( 50134 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:25AM (#22024372)
    Steadicam operator to airport security personnel:

    "We're here to shoot a pilot."

    Hilarity ensues.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by vodevil ( 856500 )
      Maybe I'm missing something, but the "Shoot it, upload it, get famous" piece sounds more like an advertisement on the page. Why would they punish somebody for that?
      • by rizzo420 ( 136707 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:55AM (#22024882) Homepage Journal
        they're stretching... that's why.

        the second i read that i knew what it meant (considering it was called "project spotlight"). if a university president can't understand that it means take a picture with a camera, then he probably doesn't deserve his position to begin with.

        the president wanted to shut this kid up. gave the false notion that he would go to therapy and when approved be allowed back in. when the kid went through therapy with flying colors and didn't shut up about the parking garages, the president did a 180 and wouldn't allow the student back.

        what the kid should really be looking into is the school's counselor who violated their professional obligation to not share information about their clients except in extenuating circumstances (such as the client admitting to murder). however, fearing for his/her job when the president met with him/her, i'm sure he/she just crumbled under pressure and said whatever the president wanted to hear.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      here in the UK employees are usually pretty well protected but some companies have a scummy arrangement where where all the employees are actually contracted from a small temping organisation that only serves that particular company. Thus, the company can "fire" whoever they want whenever they want by just going "we don't want to offer you any more shifts" and the person is SOL.

      An incident I'll never forget is when someone was in front of me for an interview with company X, talking to the receptionist about
    • Or, on the plane, shout to an old acquaintance who's a few rows farther:

      "HI JACK!"

      (Joke taken from Scott Adams' Dilbert)
  • by pdhenry ( 671887 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:25AM (#22024374)
    Well, if you RTFA, one could infer that referring to the garage as the Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage could be construed as threatening to university president Zaccari. It's wasn't just the Project Spotlight link.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That's a very big stretch. That statement could be read in another, more likely and more innocuous way, that the president of the university wanted the garage named for him (I guess there weren't any other buildings left). It hardly seems to be a threat, and you would need counseling yourself if you started walking around with plain-clothed policemen because you thought that the collage was a threatening document. The threat was to this president's plan to build the garage, and so he just found a clever
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) *
        Well, this may be of interest: At work one time, to two coworkers born ~1955, I jokingly referenced a "Bob Memorial Golf Course", where Bob was one of the two, the joke being that Bob would have a lot of money to fund those things. The both immediately assumed I was joking about Bob's death.

        This suggests to me there's a generational difference in the connotation of "memorial".
    • Re:Here's a threat (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:47AM (#22024456)

      Well, if you RTFA, one could infer that referring to the garage as the Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage could be construed as threatening to university president Zaccari. It's wasn't just the Project Spotlight link.
      It could be. But it's more likely a reference to the fact that the University President was on his way to retire and was using funds from student fees to build the Parking Garage.

      After all, "Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage" has a certain ironic ring to it. As if the University President really thinks that in a hundred years, he will be remembered for a parking garage. It's the sort of thing that if I were a student there and immersed in this issue when seeing that sign, I would probably laugh and think "what a fool Zaccari is."

      When a communication has several plausible innocent meanings, it hardly presents the threat of a clear and present danger just because someone chose to take it out of context and give it the threatening meaning. Based on TFA, Zaccari pointed to a couple things from an online profile (one of which was a mere advertisement placed there by Facebook). Who among us could not be characterized in an unfair way similarly to the way this student was characterized?
      • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
        He won't be remembered FOR the garage, the garage is a reminder of his 'greatness'.

        If you see a Jefferson Memorial High School, do you think that Jefferson is being remembered for that school? No, he's remembered for all the amazing things he accomplished while alive and the school was named after him to help remind people that he did them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hope Thelps ( 322083 )

      Well, if you RTFA, one could infer that referring to the garage as the Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage could be construed as threatening to university president Zaccari.

      1. That's pretty weak.

      2. If you really think someone is making death threats, you don't send them a letter expelling them ("that'll stop him killing me!"). You call the police.

      It's pretty obvious that the university officials are being disingenuous here. I'm quite happy to assume stupidity rather than malice in most cases but there are limits.

      • by Qzukk ( 229616 )
        I'm quite happy to assume stupidity rather than malice in most cases but there are limits.

        The problem with choosing stupidity over malice is that the old catchphrase assumes it can never be both.
    • by thegnu ( 557446 )
      I know several people are already refuting your point, but I have to point out that something that merely can be construed as a threat is not a threat. See the "We're here to shoot a pilot" comment above. Or I'll slit your throat.
  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:27AM (#22024384)
    School shootings seem to be used as a pretext for schools to accomplish their non-academic goals these days. At my university, for example, the dining halls recently received several large, flat panel TV's each, which provide us with vital information about the price of food and upcoming "dining hall events" (food that isn't normally served but is just as bad). When I noted to a friend that this all seemed like a waste of electricity, especially since we have a coal-fired power plant right on campus, one of the dining hall supervisors overheard me and said, "Yeah, but these can also be used as an emergency communications system, ..." and went on to talk about how students need to be informed.

    It was easy to call bullshit, since we already had a system for that. More to the point, using people's fear of a lunatic going on a shooting rampage to justify ludicrous measures like my school's TV's or this George school expelling this student is a disgrace.

    • I wonder if someone turning these stupid advertisement pumps off via a [] device would be changed with disabling emergency communications equipment and expelled. They are easy enough to hide though, and like the typical threat of expulsion keeping people out of the steam tunnels, I'm sure it could become a popular pastime to use such devices.

      some might even find it fun...

    • by rho ( 6063 )

      justify ludicrous measures like my school's TV's

      They should use the money to institute a new required course--Apostrophes for Idiots.

      Probably they'd have to spell it "Apostrophe's for Idiot's", otherwise nobody would know what it i's.

  • Fire the President (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:38AM (#22024428) Homepage
    The school's president should be dismissed with prejudice for his actions, especially trying to bully the school's counseling service into providing him with "evidence" that the student was dangerous. I'd also dump the spineless jerks on the Board of Trustees.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:38AM (#22024432)
    President: [mailto]

    University Relations: [mailto]

    1500, N Patterson St. Valdosta, GA 31698 []

    +1 229-333-5800
    or 800-618-1878

    For your well reasoned & thought out responses.
  • Making an Example. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by headkase ( 533448 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:46AM (#22024452)
    I'd like to see him sue his educational institution for millions and millions to make an example out of them. Sue for a refund of tuition, lodging, lost time, and the rest for mental anguish then he can use that money at his next school which hopefully won't be as ignorant as this one. There is one thing that people seem to forget is absolutely needed: a healthy disrespect for authority. When someone is held above reproach they tend to turn into a dick. Accountability and it's prerequisite transparency allows the separation of people and jobs they don't deserve. It makes me fume and recall a quote from "Scent of a Woman" where Al Pacino's character states flatly: "If I was half the man I was five years ago I'd burn this school to the ground." when he is confronting the same type of idiots who don't care who's life they ruin as long as they're "right".
  • by Nazlfrag ( 1035012 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @09:48AM (#22024464) Journal
    I stumbled across his treatment of free speech on his campus here [], basically students have a tiny Free Speech zone where they can speak freely between 12 to 1 pm and 5 to 6 pm, as long as they give 48 hours notice and comply with onerous regulations about maintaining order and decorum. I get the feeling he doesn't quite grasp the whole first amendment thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RealGrouchy ( 943109 )
      Well, if students were to start thinking independently and having opinions, it would get in the way of their Education.

      - RG>
  • > what-is-this-privacy-of-which-you-speak

    It's clear that the university president is an asshole, but what the hell has this to do with privacy? Perhaps you meant to type "freedom of speech"?
    • by FroBugg ( 24957 )
      Well, the fact that University officials are browsing the Facebook sites of students might worry some. Also the statement in the article that the president spoke to psychiatrists the student had previously seen before bringing anything to the attention of the student.
  • If I were a president of an institution and I thought that someone was a lunatic just waiting to shoot up the school, the last thing I would want to do is expell him under flimsy pretexts. It seems like that would be the LAST thing you would ever want to do. If this kid didn't have a motive, he sure as hell has one now.

    Taking that into consideration I have a hard time believing the president acted in the best interest of the university whether Barnes was a threat or not.
  • by Mike1024 ( 184871 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:01AM (#22024536)
    From the article:

    "Knowing that Barnes had availed himself of counseling services made available to all students by VSU, Zaccari secretly and repeatedly met with Barnes's counselor seeking to justify his decision to expel him," the lawsuit states. "What he learned from both the campus counseling center and from Barnes's private psychiatrist who was consulted in the matter, however, was that Barnes had never exhibited any violent tendencies

    University administrators looking at students' public facebook pages is perhaps a bit odd, but for administrators to have access to counselling records and private medical records seems like a far more important invasion of privacy to me.

    This case demonstrates why privacy of medical records is so important - you complain about a car park being built and a paper-pusher with an axe to grind accesses your medical records and paints you as a madman if you ever set foot in a psychologist's office.
    • This is an unfortunate result of exemptions in HIPAA that allow health records to be accessed if there's a belief that the patient could harm themselves or others. My understanding though has always been that the doctor has to initiate the disclosure, not the other way around. Either way this psychologist should lose his license. He ignored professional ethics basically because his boss asked him too.
    • by absurdist ( 758409 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @02:08PM (#22026492)
      I went through a somewhat similar situation while working for an agency of the State of California. Morale was in the toilet due to management being exactly the kind of clueless, pompous buffoons that management so typically is. So they brought in a psychiatrist and set up mandatory meetings for every department. At the first meeting he made a very big show of assuring everyone that this was all confidential and he was bound by law and professional ethics not to divulge anything said in these sessions to anyone. When I brought up immediately that the state Supreme Court had recently ruled that, contrary to his assertions, whoever was PAYING for the service was considered to be the client, and therefore entitled to have the information divulged to them, and that his misleading statements really didn't reflect well on his professional ethics, he tried to deflect it in every possible way... WITHOUT actually denying it. The point was made, however. The sessions were abruptly ended about a month later when it became clear that no one was talking to him. The bottom line is that the Doctor - Patient relationship isn't nearly as sacrosanct as people make it out to be.
  • by tmk ( 712144 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:02AM (#22024542)
    ...after they published a FAQ on "troubleshooting".
  • Media War (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:07AM (#22024588) Homepage Journal
    They just got their first lesson in Media War 101: the war takes place in the media. But the test asks "where are the bodies buried?", which is "in the lawyer's office".

    Since the school has expelled them with the explicit reason that "shooting video to publish is a 'clear and present danger to the school'", but it isn't, they should have an easy case to win. Which is a direct hit to the school, and will probably sink their parking garage battleship once the ongoing story gets back into the media. Because if the mass media loves one thing these days, it's seeing new people making news content for free that it can circulate to pad its ads, especially if the story is about the power of the media.

    "VTech backlash" by cowardly schools is ugly. But the backlash to that backlash, if brought by brave students, should decimate that enemy.
  • I do believe that any school building project has to be approved by the city, which then promptly posts the building plans for PUBLIC debate before the permit is granted. ( at least they do here )

  • by whoda ( 569082 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:14AM (#22024646) Homepage
    What about the rest of the students who weren't expelled and are being educated by these idiots? That's the real story.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:22AM (#22024698)
    I am posting AC because last year this kind of thing happened at my university also. The president of the university was catching a lot of flak from students about putting nearly 50% of his budget towards the football team instead of academic programs or even other sports programs (in fact the other sports programs were so under-funded that they closed the pool and made the swimming team practice at the city public pool.) He got mad and the next thing you know a group of about 10 students were informed that they would not be able to attend classes next term because they had "failed to adapt to campus life." All of them had been vocal members of the groups opposing the president. Three of them were seniors due to graduate that year. All of the students were allowed to return after they threatened to play the lawsuit game. I think that the student from the article could probably do the same since the comment from the picture seems to have been taken totaly out of context.
    • by FroBugg ( 24957 )
      Except the student has already appealed through all the avenues afforded him and has begun a lawsuit. Threatening to do so obviously didn't get him anything.
  • Privacy?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EaglemanBSA ( 950534 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:23AM (#22024702)
    Interesting story, but I think the question shouldn't be whether the University has the right to look at your profiles're putting them in a public forum - one must assume that the information you present in said public forum is viewable by the public. I mean seriously, it's like having a loud conversation in an airport terminal and suing someone for overhearing your conversation.
    This is not a privacy issue, it's an issue of the university overreacting in a way that I'm sure would be inconsistent with their code of conduct. If it's not, then the student needs to bring suit and talk to his student union about policy changes.
  • by Organic Brain Damage ( 863655 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:31AM (#22024752)
    You'd have to be living under a rock not to realize that Facebook (and MySpace) are being used by schools and employers and angry colleagues to deny employment or discipline students. Why would anyone keep a Facbook page up and running today? So you can show your "friends" how much dope you smoked last weekend? That's just stupid.

    Maybe I'm too old to understand, but back in the '70s when when a doper bragged about lost weekends the bragging wasn't recorded.

    Friends don't let friends post on Facebook.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Khakionion ( 544166 )
      The only "foolish" part of it is that these people haven't taken the time to mess with the privacy settings on their fucking profiles. Photos, Notes, even your basic profile can have their visibility changed to various classes of user. If you're doing something questionable, but still want that media shared, learn to protect your content.

      However, this particular case at Valdosta is irrelevant and ridiculous, seeing as the content was totally innocuous.
    • People in positions of authority, or with public profiles of some sort, learn early on (especially if they've been raised to expect it) that they need to lead two lives: that things they write, say, and record are part of a public persona, and that they have to consider the impact of them at all times.

      Most of the population didn't have this concern, and this was, in fact, one of the consolations of a life of obscurity that most of us lead: that we had a certain freedom to do and say what we think without re
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by crashfrog ( 126007 )
        People in positions of authority, or with public profiles of some sort, learn early on (especially if they've been raised to expect it) that they need to lead two lives: that things they write, say, and record are part of a public persona, and that they have to consider the impact of them at all times.

        Sure, and that would be justified if this was a case of that, but it's not. The kid wasn't even expelled because of anything on his profile. He was expelled because an ad that Facebook displayed with his profi
  • "We think this student might be violent, let's slip an expulsion note under his door."

    It should be interesting to see what the setllement amount is going to be.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by russotto ( 537200 )

      It should be interesting to see what the setllement amount is going to be.
      Hopefully it will include a lifetime parking spot at the T. Hayden Barnes parking garage.
  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> on Sunday January 13, 2008 @10:56AM (#22024896) Homepage
    There has been a lot of comment about the effect on the student, what the university should have done, .... but just think what effect this will have on the other students who are looking at this fiasco. They will say to themselves: "Oh, shit - I had better not say anything that might not be liked by those who have power over me because I might be penalised!". This mindset is likely to last the rest of their lives.

    What this sort of thing does is to generate adults who keep their heads down and won't make negative comments no matter what the government, their employer, ... does. This means that the few who run the country/company/... can commit outrageous acts and get away with it because the population is too scared to complain.

    It is just this sort of mentality that lets the government get away with some of the huge restrictions of freedom that it is imposing.

    This sort of thinking is what kills democracy.

    I am talking about the USA here, but I am a Brit and can see this sort of thing will also happen here... where our government ignores us and the law anyway.

  • Obviously the university doesn't have a photography department. Otherwise they'd have a ton of these going out to students. Idiots. Behold higher education in America! The time has come for such actions to jeopardize their federal funding. Its time to starve political correctness to death!

  • It's impossible to know what's going on in the minds of the administrators without reading the comments that this fellow posted -- did he simply criticize, or did he threaten? Is is a person of conscience, or a lunatic?

    The only info we're given is extremely vague. If the school officials were really over-reacting, it should be obvious from the comments. So where are they?

    I smell sensationalist journalism...

  • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:19AM (#22025062) Homepage Journal
    I move that whomever uses /that/ phrase be summarily shot.
  • Too far? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by loraksus ( 171574 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:29AM (#22025130) Homepage
    Has university surveillance of online identities gone too far?

    Is it really relevant here? Someone in the school administration wanted to silence a single student who raised awareness about a project that was pissing away a significant amount of student money. So they went out, found a flimsy, bullshit excuse and ran with it.

    It isn't a matter of active and sustained surveillance of students - it's the matter of a administrator (or one of his minions) doing something stupid that will cost the school quite a few bucks in legal fees and the upcoming settlement in order to protect one of his pet projects.

    We all know politics in the real world has pork and corruption, but the academic world takes it a step further in some cases. When you factor in the effect of tenure, it can get ugly very quickly, especially if the tenured employees feel threatened.
    Quaint notions such as "the law" are ignored - primarily because even though their actions put the school at legal jeopardy, the actual employee really is unaffected.
    Besides, college students aren't really known for their ability to retain lawyers easily.

    I speak with some authority, since I was VP of student government and finance director PCC Sylvania. I've spent a few years in student government and suffice it to say, I've seen a few things.
    For a bit of background, PCC Sylvania is a campus w/ ~24,000 students. Roughly 86,000 students currently attend PCC's multiple campuses, making it one of the largest schools in terms of enrollment in the USA.
    Granted, PCC isn't a university, but from what I've seen, student fees are handled in more or less the same manner at any school.

    Student government didn't get all the student fees - a significant portion of the collected fees went to projects run by (factions in the) administration and only a few percent trickled down and could be spent by the elected student government.
    I'm not going to say it was all wasted, but I can completely understand how people can get pissed at how large portions (5-6 figures, year after year) of it were spent.

    What can you really expect? After all, you are talking about a funding source that is essentially guaranteed, with virtually no oversight and run / spent by tenured administrators / professors. You're going to have corruption, you're going to have abuses of power and this is really nothing new.

    The only thing different here is that it made the papers because even though this type of arbitrary expulsion isn't exactly new (it has been on the rise for the last few years - it's not a result of Virginia Tech), it still makes a fairly good story, especially with the "early departure".
  • by One Childish N00b ( 780549 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:43AM (#22025236) Homepage
    In a post-[Event X] world, have needless appeals to emotion gone too far?

    A couple of days ago I posted a comment against the constant references to 9/11 [] being used to justify or explain things that have very little to do with preventing terrorism or other terrible event, and this is another example, and the shame this time is that it's a comment from a /. user - I thought we were supposed to be more informed and enlightened than knee-jerking idiots?

    In a post-Virginia Tech world, has university surveillance of online identities gone too far?"

    What has Virginia Tech got to do with university surveillance, ever? Seung-Hui Cho was well known on campus for being weird, handing in obviously violently disturbed plays for class assignments, and even writing a story about a school shooting which the university was aware of. Now I know that what one writes is not neccessarily a reflection of what one intends to do, but it's not like anyone needed to spy on Seung-Hui's Facebook page, if indeed he had one, to see that he had serious issues going on - his social problems were far more severe than some kid writing a comment about his teacher building a parking garage, and were being waved in the face of his tutors for more than a year before the horrendous act took place.
  • I am getting sick of this sick and cruel world the Bush administration have created, where even saying 1 word in a non-threatening manner can get you kicked out of school. According to, terrorism is defined as " the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes." Key word: threats. Political purposes. So the Bush administration are terrorists. The federal government are terrorists. The principals of schools that suspend and expel students for even so much
  • In a post-Virginia Tech world, has university surveillance of online identities gone too far?
    but this one :

    In a post-Virginia Tech world, has stupidity of administrators gone too far?

    and the answer is yes. this university name should be well published so that everyone will know what quality its administration is, and act accordingly.
  • So how are Universities normally supposed to fund new constructions?

    Do not forget that the student was expelled as a side effect of his protest against the new 30M dollar garage to be built with the student tuition money. I wonder if his protest against this construction was the real reason for the administrative action?
  • by Jay L ( 74152 ) * <> on Sunday January 13, 2008 @12:28PM (#22025610) Homepage
    1. Valdosta State is in Georgia.
    2. Georgia borders both Alabama and Florida.

    This should help to explain things a little better.
  • Cool. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vegeta99 ( 219501 ) <rjlynn AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday January 13, 2008 @01:13PM (#22025986)
    Bwahaha. That's cool. I'm glad PSU isn't the only campus with the fake parties. And the administration claiming it was noise violations is full of shit. We've set up fake events in empty apartments, just to have four cops show up and pound on the door of some scared-shitless freshman who just got out of the shower.

    Fuck em. Noise violation? Maybe they meant that they were raising the noise /floor/ by adding junk to the system =)
  • by superdude72 ( 322167 ) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @03:37PM (#22027308)
    The Facebook angle is beside the point. A university president summarily dismissing a student by slipping a note under his door is extremely bizarre. Ordinarily you'd expect lower-level administrators to be involved, for there to be meetings and hearings and counseling offered. The president wouldn't be involved at all, except to sign off on the decision (if that.) It sounds like the president is making a very rinky-dink attempt to intimidate the student while bypassing the official channels.

    Sometimes you see this sort of petty thuggery by corrupt small-town public officials (or College Republicans), but they usually don't ascend much higher than that. Their careers are self-limiting because once they rise to the level where their behavior is subjected to the slightest scrutiny, they scurry like cockroaches from the light.

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