West Virginia University vs. the First Amendment

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Just when you thought people couldn’t get more illiterate about the Constitution, this gets reported. The article reports that “Assistant Dean LiDell Evans informed Joseph Cortese, a fourth-year student, that he was required to attend a meeting on Friday concerning an investigation about a photo he posted on Instagram of himself dressed as a Border Patrol agent for Halloween.”

According to the article, Evans told Cortese “This letter serves to put you on notice that pursuant to section 9.2 of the Student Conduct Code and Discipline Procedure for the Main Campus of West Virginia University, you are the subject of an investigation regarding alleged prohibited conduct.” Here’s hoping FIRE gets involved in this case. Let’s hope that a lawsuit gets filed against WVU seeking damages for violating Mr. Cortese’s First Amendment rights. If that lawsuit were to get filed, WVU would be well-advised to quickly settle before it gets to trial because they’ll lose. Here’s the picture that WVU is complaining about:

The email also informed Cortese that if he did not contact the office or attend the meeting, his student account would have a “hold” placed on it. “I received this email Wednesday and have had awful anxiety since,” Cortese told The Daily Wire in an interview. “While I was trying to study for finals, this was looming on the back of my mind. I know I didn’t do as well on my finals as I should have due to this,” Cortese added.

I admit that I hadn’t read the whole article when I started writing this post. As I read the article, I read this:

Cortese, who is also the Communications Director for Students for Trump, said that during the meeting, Assistant Dean Evans told him the costume could be “misinterpreted the wrong way” but acknowledged that it was Cortese’s “constitutional right” to wear the costume.

In other words, WVU sought to harass a student whose political views it likely disagreed with. That’s breathtaking. Then there’s this:

Pro-civil liberties non-profit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) told The Daily Wire in a statement that they are “aware of this case and looking into it. Public universities enter treacherous terrain when they investigate expression protected by the First Amendment,” said FIRE.

Finally:

“The West Virginia University Office of Student Conduct received a complaint claiming the student was posting ‘vulgar hateful Instagrams’ but did not single out what was ‘vulgar’ or ‘hateful’ about them,” WVU said in a statement to The Daily Wire. “The Office followed standard procedure, including the timing, to follow up on the complaint and talk with the student. The Office tries to wrap up any matters before students leave campus at the end of each semester. No charges or disciplinary action was taken and the matter is now closed.”

Did this investigation get wrapped up because Mr. Cortese contacted FIRE and other civil liberties organizations? Would Mr. Cortese have been investigated if he was the Communications Director for ‘Students for Elizabeth Warren’ or ‘Students for Kamala Harris’? I’m betting he wouldn’t have been.