Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dream On

In "U. of Chicago Student Questions University's Reaction to Facebook Post," a blog for the Chronicle of Higher Education questions the limits of free speech on a popular social network site associated with college campuses. First Amendment Watchdogs Foundation for Individual Rights in Education or "FIRE" have argued that the University of Chicago "repeatedly censors" Facebook posts by its students. In the most recent case undergraduate Joseph Dozier posted the following status update: "Dreamt that I assassinated John Mearsheimer for a secret Israeli organization—there was a hidden closet with Nazi paraphanelia. Haha! :-)" Although Dozier posted a smiley face to indicate that he was joking, his putative target, ex-Air Force officer and security expert Professor John Mearsheimer, took the account of an alleged dream by his ex-student as a threat. Mearsheimer had authored a book called The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, so Dozier's remark seems less completely tangential to Mearsheimer's exercise of academic freedom, but a screenshot of the offending page shows that the student doesn't seem to fit the social profile of an asocial, violent stalker worthy of being feared. According to a transcript from campus police, a student who jokingly responded, "I had the same, exact dream, what the fuck?" was also contacted during the investigation. Dozier apparently initially posted the comment to Twitter as well, on a public feed, but he became concerned because the investigating officer emphasized that the university would want to monitor goings-on on what are assumed to be more private Facebook pages and spoke about his identity as a radio personality in the world of student political broadcasting. My initial suspicion that the friending of professors by students may have played a role in leaking the mockery of an instructor to law enforcement hasn't been verified by information from the public record provided by the campus police.

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