Yik Yak Suit Settlement: Incident expunged, but ex-Tech student not allowed back

MARQUETTE — The student expelled from Michigan Technological University after a post on the social media app Yik Yak has agreed to a settlement with the university, as well as another person who circulated an altered screenshot of Schultz’s post.

Matthew Schultz filed a suit in U.S. District Court in 2016 against numerous Tech administrators and staff as well as Ryan Grainger, a former Tech student whose Twitter account posted the doctored screenshot.

The parties agreed Schultz’s post did not intend physical harm, according to a release from Michigan Technological University Thursday. Schultz will not return to Michigan Tech, but the expulsion and other disciplinary measures will be wiped from his record.

“The parties agree that Matthew’s dreams of a successful career in mechanical engineering should not be compromised and are encouraged,” the release said.

Schultz made the post on the now defunct app Yik Yak, on which users could see posts made within a 5-mile radius. Schultz’s original post read “Gonna shoot all black people …… a smile tomorrow,” followed by a smiley-face emoji.

Schultz had sought damages of more than $75,000 and reinstatement to the university. He alleged the university violated his First Amendment right to free speech, while the university’s disciplinary process violated due process.

The university had sought to dismiss the case. It said the original post could be considered a “true threat,” which would remove First Amendment protection. It also said the Tech employees named individually in the suit should receive qualified immunity for performing their jobs.

“Matthew has asserted that his post was in no way intended as a threat of violence, and was protected speech under the First Amendment,” Tech said in the release. “Michigan Tech understood the post differently, and believes its actions in response were justified in light of its knowledge at the time, its interests in keeping its campus safe, and its obligations under federal law.”

Schultz agreed to dismiss all charges against Tech and Grainger without costs and to give up the ability to bring the case again.

“Grainger has acknowledged his role in causing a disruption on Michigan Tech’s campus and regrets the harm caused to Matthew’s education and reputation,” the release stated.