University of Central Florida student Nick Lutz set out to humiliate his ex-girlfriend after she sent him a letter (above) apologizing after their breakup, so he graded it like a school paper, and instead of keeping the exchange private and between them as a responsible, decent, fair adult would, he tweeted it to the world, where predictably, since the Twitterverse is populated by a lot of people like Nick, it went viral, with hundreds of thousands of like-minded jerks “liking” it.
Nick is, at this stage of his life, a toxic creep without properly functioning ethics alarms. However, his school had no legitimate interest in this matter. Yet it placed him on two semesters of suspension and probation as punishment for this entirely non-school related conduct. (No, the badly treated ex- is not a student.) UCF sent Nick two letters, the first stating that he may have violated the law (no, he didn’t), while the second stated that he had violated the university’s student rules of conduct regarding disruption and cyber-bullying.
Baloney. Read the rules; I did. Even though the rules are unenforceably broad, they wouldn’t apply to his conduct:
3. Disruptive Conduct
- An act that impairs, interferes with, or obstructs the orderly conduct, processes, and functions of the University or any part thereof or the rights of one or more individuals. [Nope]
- Any act which deliberately impedes or interferes with the normal flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. [Nope]
- An act which tampers with the election(s) of any University student organization or group including major violations of the SGA Election Statutes. [Nope]
- Misuse of any University safety equipment, firefighting equipment, or fire alarms. [Nope]
- An act which deliberately interferes with the academic freedom or the freedom of speech of any member or guest of the University community. [Nope…that’s what the University is doing to NICK,,,]
- A false report of an explosive or incendiary device, which constitutes a threat or bomb scare. [Nope]
- Breach of peace: an act, which aids, abets, or procures another person to breach the peace on the University premises or at University sponsored/related functions. [Nope]
- Failure to comply with oral or written instruction from duly authorized University officials (i.e. faculty, staff, administration, residence hall staff) acting within the scope of their job duties or law enforcement officers acting in the performance of their duties, including failure to identify oneself to these persons when requested to do so. [Nope]
- Failure to produce identification upon request by a University official (i.e. faculty, staff, administration, residence hall staff), acting within the scope of their job duties or law enforcement officers acting in the performance of their duties. [Nope]
- Hindering or interfering with the Student Conduct Review Process by failing to obey the notice from a university official to appear for a student conduct meeting or hearing; and/or attempting to discourage an individual’s proper participating in, or use of, the Student Conduct Review Process. [Nope]
So much for “disruption.” Now let’s look at “Bullying”:
- Bullying: defined as behavior of any sort (including communicative behavior) directed at another, that is severe, pervasive, or persistent, and is of a nature that would cause a reasonable person in the target’s position substantial emotional distress and undermine his or her ability to work, study, or participate in University life or regular activities, or which would place a reasonable person in fear of injury or death.
Riiiiight. Re-tweeting a letter with mocking commentary will cause the ex-girlfriend substantial emotional distress and undermine her ability to work, study, or participate in University life or regular activities. What is she, 13? If so, I’d say Nick has a bigger problem.
He hasn’t deleted the tweet, even though he shouldn’t have posted it in the first place. Good. Nick is fighting this abuse of power and for the right of every student to be a jackass on his or her own time. What’s next, punishing students for chewing with their mouths open, watching porn, not being “woke” or “liking” President Trump’s tweets?
You’re a nasty son of a bitch, Nick, but Ethics Alarms is with you on this one. You have a right to a life, even a jerky life, without Big University Brother slapping you down.
UPDATE: I wondered if Nick’s tweet identified the woman; I didn’t dwell on it, because in my view, it wouldn’t change the analysis. Apparently the tweet did not identify her;still, the woman first complained to the police, then to the school. I also didn’t cover the First Amendment issue: as a state school, the university couldn’t punish a tweet based on content. The Ethics Alarms point is that it is unethical for any college, state or not, to punish students for private, personal conduct unrelated to their studies or activities on campus.
The First Amendment problem, however, made the school’s suspension of Nick untenable. His appeal was upheld, and he was reinstated.
Pointer: Rick Jones