In October 1972, East Carolina University student William Schell wrote a letter in the student newspaper about residence hall regulations that contained a vulgar four-letter reference to the University president, Leo W. Jenkins. Robert Thonen was the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper at the time the letter was published. Thonen and Schell both received disciplinary action and were expelled from the University. The plaintiffs sued in federal court to regain admission to the university.The district court ruled that the letter did not cause a disturbance to any school functions and did not violate the First Amendment, and therefore ordered the students reinstated. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling.