The Minnesota Supreme Court today upheld a lower court decision in favor of the University of Minnesota (UMN) in the case Tatro v. the University of Minnesota, which dealt with the university’s right to enforce academic codes of conduct and professional ethics.
Amanda Tatro, a student in UMN’s mortuary science program, sued the university in 2010, claiming infringement of her First Amendment free speech rights after being disciplined for Facebook posts that violated university student conduct policies. When these posts were brought to UMN’s attention, the university called the police. Although the police did not bring charges, the university called a disciplinary hearing to address the matter.
Tatro ultimately was required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, accept a failing grade for her anatomy lab course, take an ethics class and write a letter to a faculty member about the issue of respect in the profession of mortuary science. Notably, she was not expelled from the university or the mortuary science program.
ACE submitted a brief to the Minnesota Supreme Court in support of UMN, emphasizing the threatening nature of Tatro’s Facebook posts and highlighting the university’s desire to teach professional ethics in the field of mortuary science. The court upheld the disciplinary measures taken by UMN, ruling that a university may regulate student speech that violates academic program rules as long as those rules are narrowly tailored and directly related to professional conduct standards.