About this time last year, I put out a pair of Torch posts advising students about the importance ofknowing their rights on campus and being able to protect themselves in the event their rights are violated. With the new school year around the corner, now would be a good time for both returning and incoming students to give them a read.
We occasionally get questions, however, from students in a somewhat different position—as resident assistants (RAs) in university residence halls, operating not only as students, but as employees of their universities. Do they have fewer free speech rights than other students? If so, where is the line drawn? A FIRE case at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) provides some pointers here.
In summer 2010, student DJ Lintelman was heading into his third year as an RA at FGCU, having earned positive marks in both his 2009 and 2010 evaluations. But that July, Lintelman was terminated from his position. Among the reasons given by associate director of the Office of Housing and Residence Life (OHRL) Jameson Moschella were "Facebook messages" sent to another student (in which Lintelman harshly criticized the student for supporting recent student government moves to impeach members accused of smoking marijuana) and "sharing your dissatisfaction about OHRL in the presence of residents" (he had been critical of FGCU for its alleged support of the impeachments as well as his treatment after being erroneously accused of alcohol consumption on the job).
In Moschella's eyes, however, Lintelman had crossed the acceptable boundaries of free speech. As we recounted in FIRE's July 22, 2011, letter to FGCU President Wilson G. Bradshaw:
Read more at FIRE