Professor’s Facebook comments about Muslims brings campus outcry, lawsuit

“This is not the first time, and it won’t be the last time, we will see a university punish a student or professor for constitutionally protected speech on Facebook,” he said. “Professors at public universities should not have to go to court to defend their free-speech rights.”

Kissel said educators’ opinions should be just as thoroughly protected on Facebook as they would be in an op-ed in the student newspaper. Scrutinizing professors’ Facebook posts for potentially offensive material, he said, could set a precedent on college campuses.

“The real danger is in the rise of threat assessment models that imagine potential threats in totally innocuous online comments,” he said. “Who wants their tweets put in a threat assessment database? It is easier to play it safe and never show any emotion online.”

Eisenstein is the latest to draw disciplinary action from higher-education officials after posting controversial comments to the world’s most popular social network.

Syracuse University readmitted a graduate student in January after FIRE officials publicized the university’s punishment for posting racially tinged comments on Facebook.

Matthew Werenczak, a graduate student in Syracuse’s School of Education, was a student teacher at a local middle school in July when he heard a representative from the Concerned Citizens Action Program (CCAP) say that the school should hire student teachers from historically black colleges, not Syracuse.

Werenczak complained on his own Facebook page about the representative’s comment, and was later called to a meeting with Syracuse administrators to discuss the social media exchange.

No action was taken at the time, but in September, Werenczak received a letter saying he would be expelled from the school unless he took anger-management counseling, completed diversity training, and wrote a paper on his growth “regarding cultural diversity.”

Syracuse readmitted Werenczak a day after FIRE filed a complaint.

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