This is a victory for free speech on campus. If social media comments are grounds for suspension, no student is safe.

Robert Shibley of The FIRE reports.

Victory: Montclair State Rescinds Suspension of Student for Social Media Comments

NEWARK, N.J., January 18, 2013—Montclair State University has rescinded its suspension of student Joseph Aziz for violating an unconstitutional gag order that the university imposed on him after he made comments on social media. University President Susan A. Cole revoked the semester-long suspension in a letter to Aziz yesterday evening, three days after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) exposed Montclair State’s punishment to the public.

“While Montclair State never should have issued its unconstitutional gag order in the first place, we commend President Cole for acting swiftly to end the situation once it became public,” said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. “Since this unwarranted suspension prevented Mr. Aziz from attending any classes, we expect that Montclair State will make accommodations to ensure that he can get into the classes he needs as soon as possible. We also expect that the university will make sure that this unjust punishment does not appear on his records.”

Aziz’s ordeal stemmed from comments he made to a YouTube video regarding the weight of a male and female student with whom he disagreed politically. In response, Montclair State issued an order prohibiting Aziz from having any contact with the female student and also unlawfully barred Aziz from making “any social media” comments about her. While Aziz did not contact the student after the order was issued, he later posted a number of comments complaining about the incident, the student, and the gag order on the wall of a private Facebook group to which she did not have access. Among other statements, Aziz joked about escaping the student’s “tyrannical ham lock.” This was apparently a reference to the fact that the gag order was issued in response to his earlier comment that the individual’s legs resembled “bleached hams.”