A student from East Gull Lake was asked to leave Central Lakes College’s (CLC) nursing program. He filed a lawsuit. Why?
Craig Keefe had posted comments to his personal Facebook page that the CLC’s administration found offensive. He was asked to leave the program and CLC.
This is the brave new world of digital social networking and it’s uncharted territory for the school and society as a whole. Whether CLC had the right to bounce Keefe or not is not the question at hand. That will be settled in court.
What is at hand is whether Keefe, and other students at CLC, had to give access to their personal Facebook page as a part of his contract to enter CLC as a student in its nursing program.
Is it right for any person to give access to a college, an employer or any other governmental or private entity?
This is clearly and simplistically a First Amendment issue. Ratified as part of the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 15, 1791, it says, in part, “Congress shall make no law...or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble....”
Keefe is contending that Beth Adams, dean of students; Connie Frisch, director of nursing; Kelly McCalla, vice president of academic affairs; and Larry Lundblad, president of CLC violated his First Amendment rights to speak freely and that his right to due process — guaranteed by law — was denied him.
Minnesota’s House of Representatives is currently evaluating “should employees be forced to turn over social media passwords?” (It’s not known if Keefe had to supply is password to CLC.)
Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, is sponsoring legislation that would prohibit employees from having to provide their social media passwords to employers as a condition of employment.
Would this apply to students at state, regional or private colleges and universities? Perhaps.
A House web site noted: “In 2012, California, Illinois, Maryland and Michigan enacted legislation that prohibits an employer from requesting or requiring an employee to disclose a user name or password for a personal social media account.”
That established a precedent in those states.
Even if Franson’s proposed legislation gains support and becomes law in Minnesota, it would not impact Keefe’s situation.
Freedom of Speech
As an active privilege, it ranks with the privilege of committing murder; we may exercise it if we are willing to take the consequences.