Tennessee Pharmacy School Nearly Expelled Student for Twitter Sex Talk
From the Complaint in Diei v. Boyd, filed Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:
[1.] Kimberly Diei brings this First Amendment lawsuit because her public university is violating her constitutional rights by policing her personal, off-campus expression on social media. Diei was nearly expelled from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy after university officials twice investigated her personal social media activity, concluding some of her posts were too “crude,” “vulgar,” or “sexual.” Because of the vague, subjective standards employed by university officials during this shocking ordeal, Diei fears that participating in everyday discussions online may again put her doctoral degree at risk. The First and Fourteenth Amendments do not allow this result.
[2.] A University of Chicago graduate now pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Diei is an excellent student. Outside of school, Diei expresses herself on social media using the pseudonym “KimmyKasi.” In particular, Diei enjoys commenting on topics of interest to her and other young, black social media users, occasionally using profanity and freely expressing her views about sexuality. None of her posts identify her as a College of Pharmacy student or indicate any affiliation with the University of Tennessee.
[3.] Through an anonymous complaint, the College of Pharmacy’s Professional Conduct Committee … learned of Diei’s social media activity in 2019. After an “investigation,” the Committee punished Diei for allegedly violating “various professionalism codes.” A year later, the Committee again investigated Diei’s social media activity. In four days, the Committee contacted Diei about her social media, “investigated” her social media, and unanimously voted to expel her for posting “sexual,” “crude,” and “vulgar” content that again allegedly violated “various professionalism codes.”
Despite punishing Diei twice under these “various professionalism codes,” the Committee never provided them to Diei. To this day, Diei does not know what policy she violated or what expression the College of Pharmacy considers too “sexual,” “crude,” or “vulgar” for its doctoral students’ social media activity. Although Diei successfully appealed her expulsion, Diei fears that it is simply a matter of time before the Committee begins another investigation into her protected expression on social media.
[4.] The College of Pharmacy cannot police and punish the protected expression of students like Kimberly Diei simply because officials do not like or understand it. Papish v. Bd. of C
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