The first case of a university suing a student for online speech recently occurred, but the vice president of student affairs said Bradley isn’t looking to get students in trouble for what they say on the Internet.
Alan Galsky said the only reason the university would monitor students’ speech, including university e-mail, is if it posed a threat.
“Absolutely if we saw a student under any circumstances threatening some harm to the community, buildings or an administrator, we would definitely be proactive,” he said.
Galsky said employees are required by university guidelines to let administrators know if they hear of a threat.
“Look at Virginia Tech – they had a problem university administrators had been made aware of,” he said. “In hindsight it’s 20/20, but there’s some things they should have done.”
Otherwise, Galsky said the university isn’t looking in on students’ private sites, including the new Onion-like blog about the university, Under The Hilltop.
“Most of the things we ignore, we’re not on that expedition,” he said. “We believe in freedom of the speech and certainly freedom of the press.”
Under The Hilltop Editor-in-chief Lester Bangs, who declined to reveal his actual name, said UTH doesn’t plan to write about administrators, which is the reason a student at Butler University was sued for his blog.
“I don’t really think that’s our goal,” Bangs said. “We’re not really set up as a change-the-world type blog. Hopefully that watchdog role is carried out by the school newspaper.”
Under The Hilltop’s site says it is meant to be a “student-run interpretation of everyday life at Bradley University.” Recent posts are about the return of Great Clips coupons and a woman who is frequently seen dancing at a Downtown bar.
“I don’t really see us putting ourselves in a situation where the administration would put pressure on us to shut down,” Bangs said. “We are usually pretty careful about whose toes we are stepping on.”
The student whose blog was shut down at Butler was created anonymously and meant to document everyday student life at the university. However, his blog went under fire from the university when he began to chronicle what he thought was the unfair firing of a department head.
Galsky said even if a student was to say something negative about an administrator, the school would not pay attention to it – it would have to be a threat.
He said last year before Juicy Campus, a Web site created for students to gossip about each other, was shut down, the university chose not to do anything about the site’s content because it was a private site.
“A student has to be careful, in general, for what they put on a Facebook page or any kind of Twitter or blog, because you never know who’s going to read it,” Galsky said. “Certainly there’s a difference between freedom of the press and just saying what you want to say.”