Manama: Students about to graduate from the University of Kuwait face expulsion after they posted "unflattering" comments on a social network.
According to Kuwaiti media, a teacher sought legal action after a student used her Facebook page to criticise her teaching methods. Other students joined in the online debate and posted their own "critical" remarks.
However, the teacher reportedly saw all the comments as "public slander" and took the case to the legal authorities who, following an investigation that included quizzing the students, closed the issue.
The teacher did not give up and insisted on action against the students through a University of Kuwait panel that could decide to expel the students, Kuwait Times reported.
The Democratic Circle, a student union, rejected the move and said that resorting to a special jury "jeopardised the university's reputation as an educational institute."
Ali Ashkanani, spokesperson for the Circle, said that "freedom of speech was a fundamental right granted by the Constitution."
"The fact that a university instructor does not respect this premise signifies the existence of a larger issue," he said.
Freedom to express opinion
According to Abdullah Al Enizi, a student activist, "students should have the freedom to express their opinion as long as they do not offend anyone."
"The fact that an instructor cannot take criticism only means that this instructor has a problem," he said, quoted by the daily.
Khaled Al Ali, a fellow student, said that students should be given the opportunity to speak their mind openly about instructors.
"There are websites for students to rate their teachers and instructors, and some comments made by students are quite harsh," he said.
"At the end of the day, they are entitled to their opinion. How does this instructor wish to set an example to students if she cannot accept criticism? They did not even publish their opinion: it was on a personal page," he said.
Threatened with expulsion
According to the Kuwaiti daily, none of the students under probe is "willing to talk on the subject" after they have reportedly been threatened with immediate expulsion if they spoke to the press.
Mohammad Anas, a university student in Bahrain, called for "rational action" to avoid the spread of social network-related issues negatively affecting students.
"We hear a lot about legal and disciplinary action against students in the US, Europe and elsewhere for posting remarks or views on their learning institutions and teachers," he said.
"The very least that can be done is to have these colleges, schools and institutions write rules on social networks into their policy before they take any kind of action against students. This will help limit the deepening privacy versus public controversy that could decide the future of any student," he said.