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St. Aug student barred from graduation ceremony

Posted April 29, 2011

— A senior at Saint Augustine's College has been barred from participating in graduation after statements he made on the school's Facebook page, school officials said Friday. 

Roman Caple said he went to get his information packet for graduation on Wednesday and was told by school officials that he would not be allowed to attend Sunday's ceremony due to something he wrote on Facebook in the days following the April 16 tornadoes. 

The university reopened three days after the storms amid the hum of chainsaws and the roar of heavy machinery. 

Some students balked at the quick turnaround, saying trees, power lines and broken glass still littered the campus, and some dormitories were without power. School leaders said power had been restored to all campus buildings. 

College spokeswoman LaToya Sutton said in a press release Friday that Caple made comments on the school's Facebook page in an effort to disrupt a meeting on campus where Progress Energy representatives planned to speak with students. The college also planned to discuss storm recovery details at the meeting.

In a screenshot of the comment released by the college, Caple wrote, "Here it go! Students come correct, be prepared, and have supporting documents to back up your arguments bcuz (sic) SAC will come hard! That is all." 

Sutton said Caple lives off campus and was not present on campus during the storms or the aftermath.

"It was determined that the comments made to the page by Mr. Caple, coupled with other comments he made to select individuals, were designed for the sole purpose of inciting students to react to the college‚Äôs continued efforts to manage a difficult situation," Sutton said. "At a time when the college staff was working diligently to ensure the well-being of all students, Mr. Caple, a senior, chose to attempt to create chaos."

Sutton said Caple made other comments that were deemed inappropriate. Those comments were not released. 

St. Aug student barred from graduation ceremony St. Aug student barred from graduation

Other incidents involving Caple were also factored into the school's decision, Sutton said. She would not comment on the specifics of those incidents, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. 

Caple has completed his degree requirements and will receive his diploma, Sutton said. 

"There's always been issues with the administration that I didn't agree with. I believe the administration is using this as a ploy to keep me from walking at graduation because I always voice my opinions," Caple said. 

Caple said that, since he learned of the college's decision on Wednesday, it is too late for his out-of-town family members to cancel their travel plans.

"We got a lot of people coming into town for this, and this event is put on hold. It's ridiculous. I am very hurt," Caple's mother, Joy Gray, said. 

28 Comments

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  • mpheels Apr 29, 6:10 p.m.

    The 1st amendment protects you from LEGAL consequences of speech. It does not absolve you of the social or civil consequences of speech.

    I am curious about the other statements he made. He is not the only student who publicly expressed frustration with the school's decision to re-open. I wonder what set his statements apart from others? It may have been unintentional, but I have a feeling some of his statements were seen as inciting violence or were otherwise threatening. I'm sorry he is going to miss the ceremony, but he is still getting his degree, and hopefully he and his peers will learn a few things from this - everything on the internet is public, and speech does have consequences.

  • HowManyOunces Apr 29, 5:40 p.m.

    He has to learn that while he has freedom of speech, he does not have freedom from consequences of his speech. An employer would react the same way. When will our youth learn to conduct themselves with decorum? If he had a gripe, he should have attended the meeting and asked the questions in a civilized manner.

  • nanasix Apr 29, 5:23 p.m.

    WHAT HAPPENED TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH? This young man had a right to say what he wanted. Regardless of what people say, there will those that agree and those that disagree. I hope he has the guts to attend his graduation and walk on stage to receive is diploma. If he's refused and not allowed to be in line witht he other graduates, I hope he and his family have the guts to sue the He-- out of the college, as should be done. IN AMERICA WE HAVE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, AND IF THOSE ON THE COLLEGE BOARD DON'T LIKE IT, TUFF, SWOLLOW IT AND KEEP ON GOING, DON'T TAKE AWAY FROM HIM WHAT HE'S WORKED SO HARD TO EARN. A MOTHER, A GRANDMOTHER AND G/G/MOTHER, AND YOU CAN BET I'D STAND BEHIND MY GRANDSON.

  • anonemoose Apr 29, 5:11 p.m.

    Transplant, so what does congress and laws have to do with it?

  • beachboater Apr 29, 5:10 p.m.

    I don't really understand what he was saying. Guess I'm not "hip". My guess is that he might have been trying to keep students from attending a meeting that would have provided some useful info about the power situation etc. Like someone mentioned, yelling fire in a crowded theatre.

    Hopefully, he will learn from this and get on track to a productive career in his chosen field.

  • btneast Apr 29, 5:00 p.m.

    It is a shame that students at a HBC would use a tragedy as an excuse to get out of education considering the sacrifices of those that fought so hard to ensure their rights to that education.

    Barry Saunders wrote a very good column on this the other day....citing the hardships that the early black college pioneers endured and contrasting it to these students very temporary lack of modern conveniences. Typical college age "its all about me" mentality....

  • fourfivesix Apr 29, 4:58 p.m.

    @Hokiedokie: that should be "speak" instead of "talk"

    was what this guy wrote even english? i really don't understand what he was trying to say. people's poor grasp of the english language, especially around here, astounds me. my kids will not grow up that way.

  • dfendrjimray Apr 29, 4:45 p.m.

    He not rite good! He be colich grad.

  • oceanchild71 Apr 29, 4:31 p.m.

    It is one thing to voice your opinion. It is another thing to be a rabble rouser, especially in a time of crisis. From the stories that were in the N&O after the storms, it appears that the students at St. Aug's thought that they should just be able to pack it in like those at Shaw even though the damage at Shaw was supposedly much greater.

    It is a shame that students at a HBC would use a tragedy as an excuse to get out of education considering the sacrifices of those that fought so hard to ensure their rights to that education.

    This hind end of a donkey is getting his diploma, he just won't be able to enjoy the official pomp and circumstance. As others have stated, if you want to speak your mind, be willing to accept the consequences.

  • texastransplant Apr 29, 4:29 p.m.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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