EXCLUSIVE: School BLOCKS Miss. College Republicans chapter from starting public Facebook account
- A public community college in Mississippi has blocked a College Republicans chapter from starting a public Facebook page.
- The school’s social media policy requires student organizations to ask for permission before starting any social media account, and even then, are forced to follow strict guidelines.
- UPDATE: The college "temporarily suspended" its policy after publication of this article.
UPDATE: MGCCC has announced it has "temporarily suspended" its social media policy.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) has told its recently chartered College Republicans chapter either to take down its Facebook page, make it private, or face “disciplinary action” by the school.
According to documents and emails obtained exclusively by Campus Reform, Christen Duhe, associate vice president of institutional relations for MGCCC, told College Republicans faculty advisor Brian Carriere that “the college prefers that all college group pages on social media be private vs. public.”
Duhe also referred Carriere to the school’s social media policy, which states: “Any employee, student, club or organization who creates a public social media account on behalf of the College without prior approval from the Institutional Relations department will be required to terminate the account immediately. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action.”
According to Duhe, “Any club or organization formed under the college is a representative of the college.”
Ray Lee, president of the College Republicans chapter, told Campus Reform that the group’s Facebook name “Gulf Coast College Republicans” does not suggest an association with the school.
“The college has no jurisdiction over what I can and cannot do, concerning my social media sites,” Lee said. “In my opinion, the college's policy, which requires a private page, is unconstitutional as it is. It challenges our First Amendment right to freedom of speech, and we will not give in. This is bureaucracy at its finest.”
When the faculty advisor told Duhe that the College Republicans chapter had made changes to its Facebook page, including not using the school name in its Facebook page name, as Lee told Campus Reform, Duhe still said that the group was not allowed to have a public page.
“Because of the policy and changes we’ve made to other organization and club Facebook/Instagram/Twitter pages, the Gulf Coast Young Republicans page will need to become a private page,” Duhe said in the email.
According to MGCCC’s social media policy, which the associate vice president shared in the email chain, student organizations are subject to a variety of regulations, including:
“College Community Members who are approved to use a College social media account will be required to successfully complete Social Media Training through the Institutional Relations department before full authorization is granted.”
“Any employee, student, club or organization who creates a public social media account on behalf of the College without prior approval from the Institutional Relations department will be required to terminate the account immediately. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action.”
“The College reserves the right to request that College Community Members avoid certain subjects, withdraw certain posts, and remove inappropriate comments from any social media services and sites, and any other websites.”
Adam Steinbaugh, director of the free speech nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s individual rights defense program, told Campus Reform that the policy raises concerns regarding whether it follows the First Amendment.
“The policy gives administrators unacceptably broad authority to limit student expression online, and appears to conceive of student organizations as entities of the institution. But student organizations are exactly that: organizations consisting of students,” Steinbaugh said. "Limiting their ability to create social media accounts serves no defensible purpose and raises serious First Amendment concerns.”
In a statement to Campus Reform, Duhe states that the college does not condone censorship, but did not address the issue further.
“We are aware of this situation and in no way do we condone censorship of our students or employees, including student clubs/organizations,” the associate vice president said. “We have policies and procedures at our institution that are in place that student organizations are required to follow and club sponsors are aware of these policies and procedures.”
The Mississippi Federation of College Republicans also commented on the situation, stating that MGCCC is disregarding the First Amendment.
“The administration at MGCCC has acted with blatant disregard for the First Amendment rights of their students,” Fletcher Freeman, chairman of the MFCR, told Campus Reform. “We hope to see the administration remove these policies and allow all students and student organizations to freely exercise their First Amendment rights.”
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