EDMOND — A University of Central Oklahoma student says a faculty member threatened to have her expelled over a blog post in which she complained about “dim-witted, air-headed females.”
Olanrewaju Suleiman, 22, wrote the post, titled “An Open Letter to Obnoxious Girls: Stupidity Isn't Cute!” on Feb. 2. Suleiman, a journalism student, said UCO professor Terry Clark ordered her to remove the post and told her she would be expelled if she didn't do so.
In the post, Suleiman says “there are these three girls I know” who “act like complete idiots.”
The post doesn't name the girls, but describes the way they speak, such as saying “presh” to mean “precious” or “ridic” in place of “ridiculous.”
“If you're ‘husband searching,' keep that to yourself,” Suleiman wrote on her personal blog.
“I'm pretty sure there are a good chunk of people that want to strangle you into silence.”
Three students in one of Suleiman's classes took offense to the post, she said.
During the next class period, Clark called her into a meeting with Rozilyn Miller, chairwoman of UCO's mass communications department, Suleiman said.
The two told her she'd ruined her career as a journalist and threatened to have her expelled, she said.
Suleiman said she removed the blog post and apologized to everyone in the class after Clark and Miller told her she'd be expelled if she didn't do so.
About a month later, Suleiman went to class again to learn that class was canceled because a student had told Clark that Suleiman had been surreptitiously taking photos of her in class. Suleiman said she hadn't been taking photos of any classmates.
UCO spokeswoman Adrienne Nobles wouldn't comment on Suleiman's claim, citing protections under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. Clark didn't return calls seeking comment.
An academic and classroom misconduct report shows Clark filed a complaint against Suleiman for disruption of class and intimidation.
Despite the fact that the complaint accuses Suleiman of being disruptive, Clark wrote on the form that she seemed withdrawn in class.
Suleiman said she didn't intend to disrupt class when she wrote the initial blog post.
She didn't mean to offend anyone, she said.
“I wasn't trying to be disrespectful to anyone,” she said. “It was all in good fun.”
Unexplored area of law
Frank LoMonte, executive director of the nonprofit Student Press Law Center, said Suleiman's case delves into an area of law that hasn't been fully explored.
Historically, what a student did off campus was generally out of the university's hands, as long as it was legal. But with the advent of blogging and social networking sites, things students write online can cause disruptions during class, LoMonte said.
For example, he said, if a student used an off-campus email address to send a bomb threat to the university, then the university would likely have jurisdiction no matter where the student was when the message was sent.
LoMonte said he doesn't think Suleiman's case rises to that level. If the blog post truly was causing disruption, he said, the situation could have been handled without invoking the university's disciplinary system.
“You'd really have to show that the student was provoking fistfights or was otherwise grinding the operations of the school to a halt, not just that the student hurt somebody's feelings,” he said. “That's to be resolved by a conversation, not by a threat of expulsion.”