The University of Calgary has placed a student on academic probation after he posted comments about an instructor on a Facebook group.
The school placed Keith Pridgen, 19, on 24 months of academic probation — essentially a stern warning — in November. That was cut to six months after he appealed, Pridgen said Tuesday.
In August, Pridgen posted on the wall of a Facebook group critical of his former law instructor. The group was called "I no longer fear Hell, I took a course with [instructor's name]."
Pridgen wrote: "[Instructor's name] IS NO LONGER TEACHING ANY COURSES AT THE U OF C!!!!! Remember when she told us she was a long-term prof? Well actually she was only sessional and picked up our class at the last moment because another prof wasn't able to do it .. lucky us. Well anyways I think we should all congratulate ourselves for leaving a [instructor's name]-free legacy for future [law and society] students."
The group, along with Pridgen's comment, was later removed completely from Facebook.
It's unclear why the university decided to penalize Pridgen, and school officials wouldn't comment on the case.
"We had a right to free speech and ... we were simply just exercising it, and I wrote carefully. I made sure to not include any threatening statements or anything that was, to my knowledge, to be untrue," he said.
University's misconduct policies ambiguous
Popular websites are used to rate professors and classes and to share comments, but they can be compared to putting up notices all over the university campus, said Tom Keenan, an expert on technology's social implications who teaches in the computer science and environmental design departments at the U of C.
"You know people would tear them down, but it would still impugn somebody's reputation, and you can still get sued," he said.
"We have a culture now where websites are evolving that allow anybody to say anything."
The University of Calgary Students' Union noted that the school's policies on misconduct don't directly refer to the internet.
"Something that we're doing specifically with the university is working to find or to create policy and procedure, specifically for these social networking sites because it is pretty ambiguous," said Pamela Weatherbee, one of the group's vice-presidents.
She said a meeting between faculty and students has been scheduled for next week to discuss internet policies.