The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

September 27, 2011

SHSU students plan more free speech protests

HUNTSVILLE — More protests are planned this week of a proposed social media policy at Sam Houston State University by students who charge it will infringe on their right to free speech.

Last week, SHSU faculty and students spoke out against the proposed policy, which would affect anyone who joins the university’s “social universe” of social media accounts, a network to be created by the SHSU Marketing and Communications Department.

The policy states that each social media account associated with the university should fill a role relevant to the university’s interests at large.

Under the proposed policy, the Marketing and Communications Department would reserve the right to access and manage these accounts, as well as the right to edit and delete content deemed inappropriate and shut down accounts if necessary.

Kris Ruiz, associate vice president of marketing and communication, is leading the effort to develop the social media policy and the campus social media network or “social universe.”

Ruiz said Monday that the policy has not been formally implemented and that she’s asked for feedback on its proposal from faculty and university groups that would be part of the network.

“It’s not implemented because right now we’re in what we call a soft launch,” Ruiz said. “So everything that is out there. We’re just fine tuning and making changes as we go. I know there have been articles in The Houstonian, and I’ve asked for feedback, but as of yet I haven’t received anything.”

Students, however, have been protesting the policy since last week.

Campus political organizations, including SHSU Lovers of Liberty, Bearkat Democrats, Young Democratic Socialists and College Republicans, coordinated a Facebook event to encourage students to exercise their First Amendment rights on a “Free Speech Wall” outside the Lee Drain Building last Friday.

The free-standing wall was covered with paper, and students were invited to write their thoughts on it.

“This is a university, a place for the free-flow of ideas to take place,” said Morgan Freeman, president of the SHSU Lovers of Liberty. “Anything that tries to put a stop to that free-flow of ideas is really acting in contrast to the purpose of a university.”

The tone of the event changed when students filled the wall with expletives and derogatory remarks about President Barack Obama and past presidents such as George W. Bush.

Friday afternoon, SHSU math professor Joe Kirk, who objected to the profane language written on the wall, attempted to have the wall removed.

But student organizations had received permission from the university to carry out the event, which meant the wall was not coming down unless it was determined by the University Police Department to be slanderous to the point of disorderly conduct.

Kirk went to his office but returned to the wall with a box cutter. He then announced to student protesters that he was exercising his free speech and cut out an expletive relating to Obama.

UPD was called to the scene, but no arrests were made. The incident is still under investigation, officials said.

The Item attempted to reach Kirk for comment by email Monday, but the professor did not answer respond.

Students were given the choice of putting up a new wall, censoring the “F-word” from the wall, or ending the protest entirely.

 “I told him it was a free speech wall and if I censored it then it wouldn’t be a free speech wall,” Freeman said.

Ultimately, SHSU removed the wall because it was filled with too much profanity to be censored.

Students are not the only ones concerned about the proposed social media policy. SHSU faculty members also have expressed reservations.

In the Sept. 15 edition of The Houstonian, Faculty Senate University Affairs committee Chairman Paul Loeffler said the proposed policy was “totally inappropriate” and that the marketing department was overreaching.

“It affects and involves student, faculty and other university members,” Loeffler said. “It should go through the Faculty Senate, Student Government Association and the Academic Affairs Council.”

In response, student political organizations plan more protests this week — one in the Mall Area of the campus Wednesday and another with a “censorship wall” Thursday.

The censorship wall is intended to poke fun at the university for the violations of free speech students believe will be the result of the proposed social media policy.

“We want to show the reality of what censored speech really is,” Freeman added. “The policy basically gives the university free reign over all of our content. and there is no accountability in the policy either. So, besides the fact that they want to come in and delete everything, there is no official process for how they do it.”

Ruiz will attend the SHSU Faculty Senate on Thursday to receive feedback regarding the proposed policy.

Text Only
Local News
  • 4-24 Relay.jpg Walking, dining with purpose

    Folks are gearing up for this year’s Walker County Relay For Life on May 2 and festivities get underway this weekend when a special group of people will be honored.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • American dream to become reality

    What happens to a dream when it’s shelved? Will it cause the dreamer to loose faith in themselves?
    Huntsville resident Laura Delfin grew tired of wondering these very questions. She had deferred her dream of becoming a United States citizen for the last 10 years.

    April 23, 2014

  • Texas Bankers Hall of Fame names four honorees

    The selection committee of the Texas Bankers Hall of Fame announced the selection of Tieman H. Dippel Jr., Tom C. Frost, Joseph M. Grant and Rogers Pope Sr. as this year’s honorees to be inducted Thursday in the Lowman Ballroom of Sam Houston State University.

    April 23, 2014

  • Literary scholar named SHSU humanities, social sciences dean

    Abbey Zink, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, has been appointed the dean of Sam Houston State University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

    April 23, 2014

  • 4-23-the-hive-Behind-The-Hive.jpg THE HIVE: Behind the scenes at The Hive

    The Hive is about more than just journalism. It’s about expanding horizons.
    Being a part of a broadcast journalism team is a huge step for many students.
    Some students come equipped with a level of charisma that makes it easy to be on camera, others really have to push themselves.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-hive-GGs-Spring-Show-Dress-Rehearsal.jpg THE HIVE: May we have this dance?

    Recently, the Huntsville High School Grenadier Guards traveled to Galveston to compete in the Showtime International National dance competition. The dance team took home a national first-place award for team modern, and national second-place awards for team pom, contemporary and open.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-the-hive-CTE-Goes-CSI.jpg THE HIVE: CTE goes CSI

    Some students in the CTE Department’s (Career and Technology Education) forensics class at Huntsville High School got a chance last week to get “hands on” at the Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station.
    With simulated crime scenes, demonstrations of arson investigation techniques, students got up close and personal with authentic crime scene situations.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-the-hive-MTB-article-picture.jpg THE HIVE: Hornet mountain bikers make strong showing

    It’s 10 o’clock on Sunday morning.
    With cloudy skies and heavy air, members of the Huntsville High School mountain bike team line up at the starting line. With adrenaline pumping and legs eager to start pedaling, the bell sounds.
    They’re off.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-Davison,-Brent.jpg Infant stable, but still critical

    A 2-month-old baby who was found unresponsive at a Huntsville residence last week is in stable but critical condition at a Houston hospital.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Historian: Let’s talk about civil rights in Huntsville

    In 1965, the civil rights movement made its way to the city of Huntsville, beginning with a sit-in at the Cafe Raven, a popular restaurant at the time.
    To celebrate next year’s 50th anniversary of the move toward racial integration, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum will be hosting an oral history event for citizens and senior citizens to get together and share their accounts of the civil rights movement in Huntsville on Thursday night at 7.

    April 22, 2014


House Ads
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide