FORT WORTH, Texas – Texas Christian University sophomore Harry Vincent is not sure if he will be returning to school in the fall.
The Maryland 19-year-old was suspended from all campus activates and buildings except those absolutely essential to his classwork because of a series of “offensive” tweets during the previous school year, NBC DFW reports.
“I do feel that I’ve been unfairly punished,” Vincent said.
He told the Star-Telegram he was put on disciplinary probation through graduation, required to complete 60 hours of community service, and take a course on diversity after he was called to the dean’s office in May over a complaint about his comments online.
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This is clearly not a religion of peace. Stop islam 2k15, enough is enough! @BarackObama needs to step up and take action
Almost as tan as a terrorist. Going to be thoroughly disappointed if I’m not racially profiled on my trip to gulf shores
“My posts were not intended to offend anyone,” Vincent told the news site. “And I apologize to anyone if they did.”
The comments apparently irritated one of Vincent’s childhood acquaintances, who posted a message to her Tumblr page urging followers to “expose” the student for his social media posts.
From a screengrab posted by the Star Telegram:
This *** hole has been posting racist and disgusting comments on Twitter (and) Facebook. When I confronted him about it, he referred to me as an ‘Islamic **** head.
His name is Harry Vincent, his twitter is @classyPatriot and IG @insta_merican. He goes to Texas Christian University. You can email TCU and tell them he’s shedding a bad light on their university.
Vincent told the news site he spoke with associate dean of students Glory Robinson May 1 after he received a letter the day prior for alleged conduct code violations of infliction of bodily or emotional harm and disorderly conduct. He opted to allow Robinson to determine his discipline, rather than a disciplinary panel.
“I understand being called into the dean’s office if someone tweeted something and it offended somebody,” Vincent said. “I understand that the dean would call me into her office and say, ‘Hey, look, I’ve gotten some emails. This has offended some people. Can we tone it down on social media?
“But I had absolutely no idea that just for speaking my mind, for talking about current events, that I would be punished as severely as I have been.”
Vincent appealed the decision, but an appeals panel upheld the stiff sanctions at a hearing July 16.
“I never thought in a million years that a couple tweets that could be taken offensive by some people could end up having this big of a ramification, you know, on my life,” Vincent told NBC DFW.
He said he probably won’t head back to TCU if the sanctions remain in place, though a student rights group – the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education – recently intervened on his behalf.
FIRE sent a letter to TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini Wednesday expressing concerns about “the threat to freedom of expression posed by the disciplinary action” and calling on him to reverse the decision.
“If students must fear disciplinary action for offending any person, at any time, in any place, they will reasonably decide that is it safer to remain silent rather than discuss important issues, to the detriment of their own development and education as well as the TCU community,” the letter read, according to the Star-Telegram.
“If TCU no longer believes student rights are important, it should just come out and say so,” FIRE attorney Ari Cohn told NBC DFW.
“If the TCU administration is willing to punish its students every time they offend someone on the Internet, TCU students should be very afraid.”
TCU wouldn’t discuss the case with the media, but it did issue a statement Wednesday evening.
“Texas Christian University’s mission is to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community. We are always disappointed when any member of our community fails to behave in a way that aligns with our mission. When students to not live up to these values and are alleged to have violated the Code of Student Conduct, they are subject to a University disciplinary process, which may result in suspension or expulsion.”