Student suspended over online insults

Jan. 16, 2013 at 5:33 PM

MONTCLAIR, N.J., Jan. 16 (UPI) -- A group that opposes campus speech codes is defending the right of a New Jersey graduate student to joke about another student's weight online.

Joseph Aziz, 26, of Weehawken was suspended from Montclair State University for a semester, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported Wednesday. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education asked the university this month to revoke the suspension.

"As an agency of the government, Montclair State has no power to order students not to discuss any topic or person on independent social media sites like Facebook," Robert Shibley, FIRE's senior vice president, told The Star-Ledger.

Aziz first got into trouble when he posted a comment to a YouTube video, saying a female student's legs resembled "a pair of bleached hams." He was told to make no comments about the woman online and to stay away from her.

He was suspended after a disciplinary hearing when he joked about the woman in what he thought was a private Facebook group.

The university has refused to comment on the incident Tuesday, citing student privacy rules. Aziz has released a letter he received from an university official, Karen Pennington, announcing his suspension.

"Are you so focused on non-productive activities such as Facebook and 'trolling' that you have misplaced your priorities? It also is hard to understand how someone your age could truly expect that what you put on the Internet is private," she said.

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