Two months ago, the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) faced backlash for expelling an incoming student for posting sexually explicit Japanese-style cartoon (hentai) images on a pseudonymous, personal Twitter account. After pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the student was reinstated.
However, the institute appears not to have learned anything as it has updated its social media policy to further restrict free speech.
The previous policy banned “inappropriate use of electronic media” to spread “inappropriate…[or] annoying…messages or communications.”
The policy was updated from one paragraph to three paragraphs, and now bans “bullying” and inflicting “distress to others” be it “intentionally or unintentionally.”
Private institutions are not required to respect the First Amendment, which guarantees free expression. However, like other private institutions, KCAI has committed to uphold “free speech and open assembly,” and it is, therefore, reasonable for students and faculty to expect their freedom of expression to be respected.
The new policy might punish students for inflicting “distress on others” whether it is intentional or not. But what some might find distressing is not distressing to others.
Additionally, according to FIRE, for speech to qualify as “bullying”, it should qualify as peer harassment, as was defined in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education.