The student who posted the now-infamous Seventh Floor Crew rap on the Internet was asked to move off campus last week after posting a suicide note on his blog.
Sophomore Kyle Munzenrieder said his suicide note was fake, sarcastic and meant as a joke, and that he posted it in response to comments on his blog suggesting that he kill himself. He received these comments after posting the rap song, which ended on ESPN.com and brought negative media attention to the University.
The suicide note was reported to administrators, which, according to a statement issued by the University, led to Munzenrieder’s “being interviewed and evaluated, and his parents were notified that he could not continue to live on campus.”
The statement, issued by Jerry Lewis, vice president of university communications, was published in the Miami Herald on Nov. 28 after the newspaper published a story that implied that Munzenrieder was asked to move off campus because of posting the link to the rap song, and that the University was muzzling the student’s freedom of speech.
“There is no connection between the Seventh Floor Crew rap song issue and the student being returned to his parents’ supervision,” the statmement said. “However, it was that initial posting on the student’s blog that brought the website to the University’s attention.”
The statement added that it was Munzenrieder’s suicide note, as well as links to explicit images online, that violated the Student Code of Conduct and led to disciplinary action.
According to the Health and Safety Policy in Section V of the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook, “the University reserves the right to require the withdrawal of a student whose continuation in school, in the University’s judgment, is detrimental to the health or safety of the student or others.” The disciplinary action can be made by the dean of students, with the assistance others, but does not require a hearing.
Munzenrieder disagreed with parts of the statement, which said he posted “highly inappropriate and explicit photos” on his blog.
“[It said] I was posting explicit pictures, which is not true,” Munzenrieder said. “I posted a link to a shock site. It’s not my site and I’m not affiliated with it.”
Munzenrieder said he was recently contacted by President Donna E. Shalala, who told him he could appeal the University’s decision. The sophomore was also scheduled to meet Pat Whitely, vice president for student affairs, Thursday after press time to discuss his case.
“I don’t really know how the meeting is going to go,” Munzenreider said Wednesday. “I’ve admitted that I’ve made a mistake and I think that the University needs to admit that they’ve made a mistake, too.”
Munzenrieder also said he has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) regarding his case, but he has not heard back from the organization yet.
Internet privacy concerns
Munzenrieder’s case has raised concerns as to the extent of privacy and freedom of speech on Internet content. Some of these issues were raised earlier this month, when a group on facebook.com showed students who appeared to have gone swimming in Lake Osceola.
Allegations against the facebook.com students were also investiaged by the dean of students’ office, and the case was adjudicated. However, the University did not provide details as to what, if any, disciplinary action was taken.
According to Michael Froomkin, a professor of Internet law at the Law School, little privacy can be expected on websites like facebook.com and myspace.com, which are not password protected.
“In general, if you put something online that is not password protected, it can be seen by anyone,” Froomkin said.
Popular websites like facebook.com and myspace.com are not considered password protected, despite requiring its members to log in. Portions of text put on such unprotected sites can be reproduced and used without permission.
Faculty members have gotten involved in the issue, questioning how the Internet affects freedom of speech and academic freedom.
Professor Gina Maranto, acting director of English composition, tied the Lake Osceola incident with Munzenrieder’s case.
“I think all of these issues are tied together, the Facebook issue and the posting and the linking,” Maranto said. “They’re of concern in that people are putting material on that in earlier times would have seemed beyond the pale. It’s a generational clash between what are appropriate standards in an academic setting.”
Stacey Arnold can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Natalia Maldonado can be contacted email@example.com.