A University of Tulsa student is suing the university after being suspended for Facebook posts that his fiancee published.
George "Trey" Barnett was suspended in late 2014 after his then-fiancee, who wasn't even a UT student, posted criticism of two UT professors and tagged Barnett. One of the professors filed a complaint against Barnett, alleging he should have controlled his fiancee's Facebook posts.
Barnett was immediately slapped with interim sanctions that including removing him from several classes and banning him from communicating with some faculty members, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. He was also told to keep the matter quiet and not discuss with anyone else, hampering his ability to defend himself. Although, seriously, it should have been obvious to the school that Barnett did not author the Facebook posts.
Barnett was also accused of giving a local news station a critical comment under a pseudonym.
Prior to the complaints, Barnett was close to his accuser, Theatre Department Chair Susan Barrett (I'll call her Susan since their last names are so similar). Barnett and his fiancee even accompanied Susan to Ireland to participate in a theatre event. It was there Barnett learned that his fiancee had complained to UT administrators about the trip. This was prior to the Facebook posts.
Susan was aware of the outspoken nature of Barnett's fiancee prior to filing the complaint, and even voiced her concerns to Barnett, according to the lawsuit. Still, Susan filed the complaint, which included "several misrepresentations and false statements which could be easily corroborate or investigated."
Barnett was then found responsible for harassment, even though he was not the one who wrote the Facebook posts and did not receive the hearing he was entitled to under UT policy.
"Barnett was informed that, as punishment, he would be suspended until at least January 2016, and that he was forbidden from receiving a degree in his major from [UT]," wrote FIRE's Sarah McLaughlin.
Now Barnett is suing, claiming that his due process rights were violated. He claims UT denied him a hearing and didn't speak to his fiancee or additional exculpatory witness. The lawsuit claims the lack of safeguards in this case constitute a breach of contract and seeks more than $75,000 in damages.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.