In 1965, five young students made the decision to protest openly the Vietnam War at their respective public schools. This seemingly minor act of wearing black armbands resulted in the watershed case, <italic>Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District</italic>, which still stands almost 50 years later as the litmus test for determining whether school disciplinary actions violate students' free speech rights. My thesis, "Slurred Speech: Tinker and Social Media on the College Campus," will explore several aspects of the Tinker standard as relates to higher education: 1. Is Tinker the appropriate standard to use in higher education? Given that PK-12 education is mandatory and, for the most part, involves minors, is it appropriate to use the same standard in higher education? If not, what IS the appropriate standard?2. How do social media intersect with Tinker? Many schools have struggled with behavior that takes place off school grounds, and whether there is "jurisdiction" for them to impose discipline for said actions. In the age of social media, this concept has been turned on its head, and we are witnessing an unprecedented time of confusion regarding school authority over "actionable" behaviors employing social media.3. Should higher education institutions monitor students' social media?
While virtually every institution already has a student conduct code, most have not taken the step of using that code to discipline students for actions that take place on social media. We are just starting to see these cases arise, and schools will have to adopt a "best practices" approach when it comes to how they handle the question of social media monitoring. My thesis conclusion will include a best practices model.4. Should higher education institutions discipline speech at all? Are there limits?This is, perhaps, the biggest question of all, and is the primary reason I am including the <italic>Garcetti v. Ceballos</italic> case in my thesis. As places of teaching and learning, I find it an interesting paradox when institutions of higher education discipline anyone--either student or employee--for employing his/her right to free speech. While I understand the need to protect the institution, it seems to me that students should instead be taught the old saying, "with great power (freedom) comes great responsibility," and should learn how to wield words responsibly. Censorship in any form is the enemy of democracy, as has been proven throughout history, so I find it distressing to see higher education seemingly embrace the idea that students and employees can be disciplined for speech. I will use cases such as <italic>Tinker, Garcetti,</italic> and <italic>Tatro v. University of Minnesota</italic>, along with instances of disciplinary action on campuses across the country to explore these questions. The goal of the thesis is to answer these increasingly important questions, provide institutions with the background to make sound, balanced decisions regarding students' free speech rights, and offer a "best practices" guide for social media and student conduct codes.