Colorado College suspended a student for six months over a single “anonymous” comment he made on Yik Yak, a social media discussion thread app that allows users to post anonymously within a geolocated boundary.
Thaddeus Pryor, a junior at the school, was removed from campus last month because one of his remarks violated the college’s policies against “Abusive Behavior” and “Disruption of College Activities.” His offense, which he admitted to, was replying to a post tagged “#blackwomenmatter” with, “They matter, they’re just not hot.”
Initially, Pryor was kicked off campus for 21 months, but the suspension was reduced on appeal this month, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.”The six word comment I admitted to writing then deleting shortly after was mean, hurtful, and neither reflective of my character, nor my actual beliefs,” Pryor wrote in his appeal. “That being said, I still made the comment, and am deeply sorry for it.”
The reduced suspension only came after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a civil liberties nonprofit, got involved by writing to the college a few days later. FIRE has accused the college of disregarding its student guide’s statement which includes – “all members of the college community have such basic rights as freedom of speech.”
Because Colorado College is a private institution, it does not have to grant the same First Amendment free speech rights that a public school would. However, FIRE insists the school’s statement about free speech in its college guide creates a “contractual obligation.”
What remains a mystery is exactly how the school discovered Pryor was behind the posts. In his appeal letter, Pryor said one dean told him “they had no evidence other than a rumor ‘through the grapevine,'” and noted the college also accused him of posting a comment that said white people were a superior race. He denies making any offensive post besides the one in question.
While students have frequently protested in recent years over racist and offensive posts on the app, colleges have no way to identify who says anything on Yik Yak. The company has told HuffPost it does not reveal user identities unless there is a legitimate request from law enforcement regarding a potential threat.Colorado College said federal privacy laws prevent it from discussing student disciplinary actions, but did state that they did not make contact with Yik Yak. “The college followed its disciplinary procedures in this matter and respects the privacy of its students,” the school said.