UT expels student over Cardi B, Beyonce tweets, backtracks after free speech org challenges decision

The University of Tennessee expelled a student, in part, for tweeting Cardi B lyrics, claiming that she violated university policy.

The university reversed its decision after the Foundation for Individual Rights In Education stepped in.

A graduate student at the University of Tennessee was nearly expelled after being under investigation for tweeting Cardi B song lyrics, according to a First Amendment advocacy group.

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights In Education, Kimberly Diei, a student in the pharmacy program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, received a notice from the university that she was under investigation because of a complaint received about her social media posts.

One tweet that sparked the investigation, according to FIRE, was about the song “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, where Diei was suggesting potential song lyrics for a remix. The other was a reference to a Beyonce song, describing how much time it takes for her to get ready to go out.

According to FIRE, Diei has been investigated twice by the school over the content of her social media starting in September 2019. Each time the investigation was started over “an anonymous complaint about her sex-positive social media content.”

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However, according to FIRE, UT had “unanimously determined that she violated university policies with what the committee deemed to be her ‘crude’ and ‘sexual’ posts.” Diei also had to meet with the school’s Professional Conduct Committee, where she was required to write a letter that reflected on her behavior.

According to FIRE, Diei wasn’t informed of exactly which policies she violated. Diei was expelled from the University of Tennessee, but the decision was reversed when FIRE intervened on her behalf. 

Backed by FIRE, Diei filed a lawsuit against the university on February 3. 

Melissa Tindell, the director of communications at the University of Tennessee told Campus Reform that “UT does not comment on pending litigation.” 

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“UTHSC never disclosed the precise policy that Diei allegedly violated,” Greg Greubel, Staff Attorney for FIRE, told Campus Reform. “The Dean of the College of Pharmacy reversed the decision of the Professional Conduct Committee to expel Diel after we submitted a letter to her.”

“It’s so important to me to just have my voice, because people that look like me are often told ‘be quiet, stay in the back,’ and that just does not suit my personality,” Diei told FIRE. “I’m not asking for approval. I’m asking for respect.”

Moreover, even though her expulsion has been reversed, Diei still is not guaranteed she will not face future consequences over her tweets, Greubel contends.

“Diei is not allowed to tweet without worrying about consequences,” Greubel told Campus Reform. “Diei is currently subject to the same ‘various professionalism policies’ that UTHSC used to justify her expulsion, thus she continues to self-censor her social media accounts in order to comply with her best guess as to what the College of Pharmacy’s professionalism policies prohibit.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @CWTremo