Student punished for anti-gay comment on Internet blog

PENNSYLVANIA — A student at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh said he would not comply with a punishment handed down by the school after he posted derogatory comments about homosexuals on a Web blog.

A campus judicial committee charged sophomore Ryan Miner with violating the private university’s code for discrimination against sexual orientation, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

As punishment for the violation, administrators assigned Miner a 10-page essay on the pros and cons of homosexuality.

“I feel I should be able to express how I feel,” Miner said. “I should be able to have my First Amendment right.”

Miner referred to homosexuals as “subhuman” in a post on a group that was set up to protest a gay-straight alliance some students are trying to start on the Catholic campus. Facebook is an online directory that connects people through social networks at schools, according to the Web site.

“It goes against what I believe in,” Miner said of homosexuality. “I believe what I said was not discriminatory. It was describing the action, not any particular individual.”

Duquesne University public relations officials did not return a call seeking comment for this article.

University spokeswoman Bridget Fare told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that she could not discuss the specifics of Miner’s case because of federal privacy law.

“Opposing viewpoints are certainly welcomed and within a student’s rights,” she told the community newspaper. “It’s the way in which those opposing viewpoints are communicated that could be found in violation of the code, which includes respect for the rights, dignity and worth of every individual in the university community.”

Miner said he has appealed the decision to the judicial affairs office and is awaiting a response.

The university is acting within its rights in punishing Miner, said Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, in the Tribune-Review article.

“Certainly, it doesn’t promote the free exchange of ideas,” he told the paper. “But ultimately, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private institutions.”

Miner said the campus is split on whether or not he deserves the punishment.

“I plan to stick by my decision” not to write the essay, he said. “I don’t think the University will kick me out.”

by Evan Mayor, SPLC staff writer