Campus Reform | Wesleyan College jumped the gun by expelling student over racist social media posts. It's now paying dearly.

Wesleyan College jumped the gun by expelling student over racist social media posts. It's now paying dearly.

A Wesleyan College student was wrongly expelled in 2020 over a social media post she had nothing to do with it.

Now, the student who was wrongly expelled is suing the university.

A student at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, has filed suit against the school over damage to her reputation that occurred when Wesleyan accused her of, and expelled her for, racist social media content that the school now admits she did not create or post on the date of the incident. 

Campus Reform previously reported this story in July 2020.

On June 3, 2020, an unnamed individual tweeted an image of "Jane Doe" with text that included a racial slur historically used to dehumanize Black people. The lawsuit alleges that Jane Doe did not write the text on the image, never shared the image on social media, and "did not even know that [it] existed until...one of her friends told her that it was being shared on social media."

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The image went viral on Twitter, and social media users found and circulated a screengrab of Jane Doe's Facebook profile and two undated photos of her wearing a Border Patrol shirt. Jane Doe, who is using a pseudonym in the lawsuit to avoid further reputational damage, was notified the next day by Wesleyan's Dean of Students that the school would investigate the social media posts. 

Less than four hours later, and without any chance to defend herself or answer questions, the Dean called Jane Doe and told her that she was expelled from Wesleyan. An hour after that, Wesleyan announced on Facebook that "We launched an investigation that led to the expulsion of the student, effective immediately."

The Wesleyan student handbook notes that students accused of violating social provisions of the Honor Code are entitled to a hearing at which they have the opportunity to present evidence and represent themselves, but the school also reserves the right in its social media policy to expel a student or employee over their online posts. 

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Jane Doe appealed her expulsion, and in July 2020, a Student-Faculty Judicial Board chose to revoke her expulsion based on "new information that we learned in the weeks following the student’s expulsion, which called into question the accuracy of the original information. This information shows that the student did not post the racist content in early June," as reported by local CBS affiliate WMAZ. In that same announcement, a representative of the school stated, "We broke no rule or policy" in expelling the student.

Jane Doe's lawsuit says that the school's statement unfairly implies that she posted the racist content at some other time, and that, in a school with only around 700 students, her name has been tarnished by this episode. The suit also claims that the school's actions were racially motivated (Jane Doe is a white female).

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The lawsuit cites the following comments that were made on social media: 

The lawsuit implies that the college expelled Jane Doe without due process in order to deflect negative attention and appease critics who accused Wesleyan of racism because Jane Doe was enrolled there.

At the time of publication, Wesleyan College had not responded to a request for comment. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito