Tatro v. University of Minnesota
Minnesota Supreme Court
816 N.W.2d 509 (2012)
Tatro (plaintiff) was a student in the Mortuary Science Program at the University of Minnesota (defendant). Students in the program attended laboratory courses that utilized human cadavers that had been donated to the university’s Anatomy Bequest Program. At the beginning of each semester, all students, including Tatro, received orientation and instruction in the rules and policies governing the use of human cadavers in the laboratory. Those rules were designed to promote respect for the cadaver. The rules specifically prohibited blogging or posting to social media about the laboratory or dissection of a cadaver. Toward the end of the semester, Tatro made certain Facebook posts that caused alarm among the Mortuary Science Program administration. Tatro’s posts referenced hiding a scalpel in her sleeve, stabbing someone with a surgical instrument, and made references to the cadaver she had been assigned in her laboratory group. According to Tatro, the comments were nothing more than satirical commentary and meant to be humorous. Tatro was allowed to complete the semester’s coursework and take her final exams but was notified that she would be investigated by the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity (OSCAI). A hearing was held before the Campus Committee on Student Behavior, which found that Tatro had violated the Student Conduct Code and imposed sanctions on Tatro, which included, among other things, a failing grade in her laboratory class, the completion of a clinical ethics course, and probation. Tatro appealed to an appeals panel, and ultimately to the provost, who affirmed the committee’s findings and sanctions. Tatro filed a lawsuit against the university, arguing that the university violated her First Amendment rights to free speech by disciplining her for her personal Facebook posts.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Meyer, J.)
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