Minnesota Supreme Court today rules unanimously in favor of the U of M's ability to discipline student for violating academic rules
June 20, 2012
The Minnesota Supreme Court today ruled unanimously in favor of the University of Minnesota’s ability to discipline a student for posting inappropriate comments on Facebook that violated academic rules and professional standards required of students in the university’s Mortuary Science Program. The Supreme Court’s opinion represents the first published judicial decision in the country concerning a public university’s imposition of disciplinary sanctions for a student’s Facebook posts that violate academic program rules.
The university had imposed academic sanctions, including an F grade in a course and a directed study in ethics, on a student who posted unprofessional and disrespectful Facebook comments related to a human cadaver to which she had been given access as part of her professional training. University rules require respect for human cadavers that are donated by individuals to further the university’s teaching and research in a number of academic healthcare programs.
In its unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court concluded that a student does not have a constitutional right to violate academic rules that are designed by the university to teach and enforce standards of professional conduct.
“This important decision affirms the university’s authority to establish and enforce rules that train our students in the professional ethics and norms they will need to follow to be successful in their chosen profession,” University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said. “Our university educates students in a host of professions -- including medicine, law, nursing, law enforcement, social work, teaching, and many others. To be successful our students need to learn and practice a high degree of discretion and sensitivity in speaking about their work. Today’s decision reaffirms the university’s capability to train these future professionals to serve the people of Minnesota not only with high skill, but also a high sense of professional ethics.”