University Faces Free-Speech Lawsuit for Suspending Student Over Web Site

August 02, 2007

In a free-speech lawsuit against the University of Delaware, a student is arguing that campus officials had no right to suspend him for creating a Web site they deemed “racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic.”

The student, Maciej Murakowski, built the controversial site in 2005, and he used it to post a series of graphically violent movie reviews and other ruminations. But the site, which resided on university servers, did not draw the attention of administrators until this past January, when Mr. Murakowski wrote about an imaginary sexual position called “The Sociopath.”

The university suspended him in April, shortly after the Virginia Tech shootings, when many colleges and universities started taking very seriously any Facebook posts or student Web sites that seemed the least bit threatening. Mr. Murakowski was accused of violating Delaware’s policies on disruptive conduct and computer use, and was told that he would be barred from class and from his dormitory until he received a psychiatric evaluation.

A psychiatrist concluded that Mr. Murakowski was not a threat to himself or to others, but Delaware officials decided to ban him from the campus until this fall. At that point, Mr. Murakowski will be eligible to apply for readmission, but he will not be permitted to enter any residence halls, according to the Associated Press.

Now he says the university is denying his rights to free speech and due process. His lawsuit asks that he be reinstated as a student, given credit for the classes he missed, and awarded punitive damages. —Brock Read