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University of Florida denies potential student after racist social media post

UF is reviewing other racist social media posts of current and potential students as well.

TAMPA, Fla. — You've heard the saying before - be careful what you post on social media as it lives forever. 

On Monday, UF Tweeted that a prospective student who posted racist comments on social media would no longer be joining the university this Fall. 

That created a firestorm of commentary with some asking doesn't that fall under your first amendment right of freedom of speech? 

"You have the right to freedom of speech, however, you don't have the right to attend a state university," Associate Professor at The Thomas M. Cooley Law School Renalia Du Bose said. Du Bose has been a law educator for 34 years. "In the state of Florida, K through 12 education is guaranteed. In the Florida constitution there is no constitutional right to attend a state university."

She says the first thing to understand in this case is that attending a state university is a privilege that can easily be withdrawn. And second, schools have codes of conduct you must follow. Tampa attorney Ken Turkel says those codes tend to be broad.

"Schools have to regulate their student body to a degree. They have to have some rules," Turkel said, "Just because you have the right to say it doesn't mean you should always say it. One example too is defamation, it's a certain type of speech that isn't always protected."

Many people responded to UF's Tweet asking: aren't you protected by your first amendment right of freedom of speech? Both Du Bose and Turkel make it clear: there are certain circumstances when your freedom of speech is limited like defamation or mayhem. 

"In a civilized society you have freedom of speech and you can preach on the sidewalk but understand all speech is not protected. Obscenity and mayhem, for example, you can't scream there's a fire in a movie theater. So freedom of speech is not unlimited in the United States," Du Bose said.

They both advise not putting everything you think on the Internet especially content that can harm your ability to work or go to school in the future. 

"As a default setting, you should be thoughtful and careful as to what you put out there in case it falls into something that runs afoul of constitutional protections or could be perceived as mean and hateful," Turkel said.

University of Florida spokesman Steve Orlando said he couldn't talk specifics about this case because of the student confidentiality law. But says additional factors - not just that individual post - may have impacted their decision to rescind that acceptance. 

UF released a freedom of expression statement last year supporting all speech including speech that some may consider hateful, wrong or offensive. But they also support challenging those ideas and encouraging conversation about them. 

UF says they are currently investigating other racist social media posts by students or potential students as well.

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