A University of Tulsa student has run afoul of his school’s harassment policy, thanks to some posts made by his husband.
It’s hard to imagine but, George “Trey” Barnett, with just 16 credits to go for this degree in theater, has been told that he cannot attend the University again until 2016 and, even if he continues coursework at another institution, University of Tulsa will not accept them for transfer credit. Depending on your perspective, you might see this as an extreme stance or simply a case of the punishment fitting the crime.
It all began last spring, when Barnett’s husband, Christopher Mangum, made several posts in his personal account, which tagged Barnett. The problem? These posts were aimed at particular faculty members and one of George Barnett’s classmates. Magnum insulted the qualifications and morals of the professors and referred to the classmate as “morbidly obese.”
One of the professors in question filed a complaint. In response, the university asked that Barnett remove the posts from his own page, not his husband’s. However, Barnett waited until the following September to begin deleting the offending posts and, in October, three of them still remained.
At this point, the University of Tulsa, dissatisfied with Barnett actions, initiated disciplinary proceedings and eventually decided to suspend him until 2016. Barnett tried appealing the decision but, the university denied it, stating that it had no merit.
In his defense, George Barnett believed that, since 1) the university did not have a specific policy in place regarding online derogatory comments and 2) since he was not the originator of these comments, he should not be held liable for them. To this, the University of Tulsa had two responses of their own. The first was that, since Mr. Barnett was made aware of and asked to remove the offending posts from his own timeline, he then became responsible for what appeared in his personal Facebook feed. The second was that the continued existence of these posts constituted harassment against the professors and fellow student.
It remains to be seen what further recourse is available to George Barnett but, one thing is clear here, when your organization or institution instructs you to clean up your social media mess, it’s probably in your best interest to do so.