FORT MYERS (FLV) – Florida Gulf Coast University College Conservatives President Matthew Boggan had been looking forward to posting on the university’s widely popular Instagram account, @WeAreFGCU, as a senior.
The @WeAreFGCU account allows approved students to post on the account for an allotted number of days to feature their accomplishments and what the university offers. The account has been running for eight years.
Boggan said the university censored him for posting about his involvement with the College Conservatives. To his surprise, after posting about moments as a University Ambassador, Student Government Senator, Honors College Mentor and leader of the College Conservatives, his posts were all removed from the public eye Nov. 7. Many of the posts were then reposted again by the university by Nov. 9.
Boggan spotlighted College Conservatives in posts titled “College Conservatives,” “CPAC,” and “Florida House of Representatives”- all of which were taken down from the page. Those include pictures of the FGCU College Conservatives Executive Board at a school-approved tabling event holding a Ron DeSantis sign, an FGCU-funded trip to CPAC, and pictures with a slew of state officials.
“As someone who has tried to seize every opportunity that I have come across at FGCU, it is disheartening that this very university is trying to censor me–an extremely-involved honors student graduating two years early, top in my class–from posting about the very internships and activities that students are encouraged to take part in,” Boggan said.
Pamela McCabe, coordinator of University Communications & Media Relations, told Florida’s Voice the university conducted a review of the account after receiving a complaint because of partisan activity.
McCabe said recent posts were then hidden and not allowed to be viewed by the public until they were cleared during a post-by-post review.
“The review demonstrated three posts included photos highlighting partisan activity, and the student was given an opportunity to amend the posts so they could be considered for reinstatement,” McCabe said.
She said the university has “already taken action on several posts with partisan activity.”
Here are some of the pictures that were initially taken down:
When Boggan questioned the university on why the posts were taken down, he was relayed a message from FGCU President Michael Martin to the FGCU Board of Trustees saying the Instagram page “was not, and is not intended as a venue” for political issues.
“This Instagram page is intended as a means of communication with all, concerned about what’s going on at the university,” Martin said.
There are many venues and platforms for political dialogue, by all sides. Our Instagram page isn’t one of them. Again, we encourage everyone to participate in the American democracy and its practices but to do so in an appropriate manner.FGCU President Michael Martin
In response, Boggan said, “the message we have received on behalf of President Martin is extremely vague and does not address the problem at hand. This is personal exploitation on part of the university: there has been evidence of other political involvement advertised throughout student takeovers prior to mine.”
The Young Democratic Socialists group had been allowed to post their group’s signs with a cut out of Bernie Sanders while holding “Bernie” signs. YDS was not prohibited from posting stories about a protest supporting abortion, which included a sign claiming “Nikki Fried is my governor.”
FGCU’s Student Body Vice President also posted about visits with several lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis in Tallahassee at legislative meetings.
I feel targeted and extremely hurt by the steps that the university has taken to silence me personally. Not only was the college conservative post taken down and comments deleted, but posts about being a University Ambassador and my involvement in religious leadership, as well as being a champion for those with disabilities–two highly palatable topics–were also taken down.Matthew Boggan
Boggan’s posts about him attending CPAC, serving as President of Chabad FGCU, participating in Best Buddies, working in student government, and serving as a legislative intern were allowed back on the page. However, three posts were not allowed on the page because of “partisan activity.” The posts not allowed include ones highlighting experiences with specific lawmakers at the House of Representatives and the College Conservatives Executive Board holding DeSantis signs at a school-approved tabling event.
McCabe said one of the posts was reinstated following changes to the caption. The others were not allowed to be shown to the public due to the use of campaign material in the post.
“The student also brought to our attention previous posts on the @WeAreFGCU Instagram page with partisan activity; these items were held to the same standard of review. While the images are still preserved, they are no longer public-facing,” McCabe said.
Other posts were muted to no longer allow comments, including those related to CPAC, College Conservatives, and serving with the group Best Buddies. When Florida’s Voice asked why comments were not allowed on some posts, McCabe said the university can disable comments violating federal or state laws or university regulations.
“The ability to comment on select posts were turned off by the social media team due to user comments that were sexual in nature with direct insults or because they were deemed derogatory and/or off-topic from the original post,” she said.
FGCU said it now realized that the widely-popular account had not been administered by the University’s social media team to abide by University practice, even though the account had been running since 2014.
Now, all materials for stories, posts and reels must be sent to the social media team prior to posting.
“FGCU does encourage constructive and informed discussions on campus in a peaceful manner, even when we disagree or find an individual’s expression offensive or controversial. However, the @WeAreFGCU is a university-created account and it is administered by university employees, so political activity cannot be conducted within the account,” McCabe said.
The request form to post on the @WeAreFGCU Instagram included a list of rules that did not mention prohibiting posts related to politics. FGCU’s 5.001 social media policy also did not prohibit political speech on its accounts. McCabe said university employees are not allowed to take any stances on candidates as part of their official duties for the university.
“While students were given ‘control’ over the account for a temporary period, the page was overseen by FGCU employees,” McCabe said.
Republican State Rep. Spencer Roach of Fort Myers is an FGCU alumni who was inducted into the Soaring Eagles Hall of Fame in 2009.
“I am disappointed in the university’s continued attempt to to squelch conservative viewpoints on campus,” Roach said.
Roach said there is “selective enforcement” of social media rules.
“So if they’re going to have rules, they have to stop enforcing selectively, which is what we’re seeing in FGCU,” he said. “This is another attempt for them to try to shield students from speech they may find unpleasant or offensive and that’s wrong.”
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