lawsuit

Lawsuit filed to reverse speech policies at Dixie State

Students at Dixie State University have filed a lawsuit against their school after administrators refused to approve their request to distribute flyers to promote their libertarian club, hand outs that rebuked big government by playfully lampooning George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Campus officials denied the flyers on the grounds that they violated school policy, which does not allow students to disparage others, according to the lawsuit. But the students, members of Young Americans for Liberty, allege their free speech rights have been infringed, and a leader of the group said in an interview administrators are “silencing and marginalizing” them.

The lawsuit also cites an incident in which a security guard for the Utah campus actively monitored the group’s “free speech wall” display for so-called hate speech.

The plaintiffs – students William Jergins, Joey Gillespie and Forrest Gee – have demanded in their lawsuit that the public university’s “excessive” policies be revised to comply with the First Amendment. They also seek monetary damages and legal expenses.

“All YAL at Dixie did was represent a view different from that of the administration at Dixie State and the status quo, and because of that we were barred from promoting our club and marginalized in pursuing the activities we wanted to on campus,” Jergins said in an interview with The College Fix. “Especially on a university campus, people who represent differing views and are brave enough to stand up and express them should be celebrated.”

One flyer stated “learn to hold your leaders accountable” and featured a picture of President Bush with the caption “miss me yet?” next to a photograph of a grumpy cat with the caption “Why aren’t you in prison?” Another flyer featured President Obama with the air quote: “Get in my BELLYYYY!” over the FlyerImagescaption “don’t be consumed by the state!” The third flyer pictured Che Guevara with the words “real rebels don’t support centralized state authority.” Each flyer also listed the time, date and location of the group’s meetings.

The three flyers were reviewed last October by the dean of students and the administrative assistant to the dean of students and were denied because they “mocked individuals” in violation of Dixie State policies, the lawsuit stated, adding the flyers were only approved for distribution after the students agreed to remove the images of the three political figures.

The lawsuit also states the university’s director of student involvement and leadership told members of the libertarian campus group that their request to set up a “free speech wall” could only be held in a designated “free speech zone” on campus.

But the free speech zone is located in an area on campus with no classroom buildings, so students have little reason to pass by, the lawsuit states. Moreover, the “free speech zone” comprises only around 0.1 percent of Dixie State University’s 100-acre campus, the suit adds.

What’s more, a campus police officer spent 30 minutes looking over the “free speech wall” to search for anything that could be deemed “hate speech,” according to the lawsuit. The presence of the officer during the October event also caused student participation to decrease, it alleges.

Overall, Jergins said, the university is “silencing and marginalizing” the club by limiting the free expression of ideas and thoughts on campus.

“It is our right not only as students and citizens of the United States, but as human beings [to] express our opinions and be heard by those who are willing to listen,” Jergins said. “It is also our right as human beings to hear and learn from the opinions of others when they are brave enough to express them.”

He continued: “Regrettably, Dixie State’s administration has chosen to pretend as if we are neither students, United States citizens, nor even human beings and has not only completely ignored but actively infringed upon our rights as such. So we’re suing so that our rights, and the rights our fellow and future students will be recognized and respected.”

When contacted by The College Fix, a Dixie State spokesman declined to comment on pending litigation.

As for potentially being ostracized on campus by peers, faculty and administrators for taking the legal action, Jergins told The College Fix he has not encountered any backlash, adding administrators have yet to contact him about the lawsuit, nor release a statement on it.

He also said the students with whom he has spoken have all been very supportive of his efforts.

“The restrictive policies at Dixie State, I feel, have made it very hard to start clubs and to get them operative and attracting new members after they’re started,” Jergins said. “In speaking with other students, it has been my impression that they’ve recognized this and know firmly both what a restriction it puts on student life and on their learning environment.”

The lawsuit was filed in conjunction with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

“Dixie State is a public university bound by the First Amendment, and the First Amendment is quite clear that you have the unequivocal right to criticize or mock political figures,” FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff said in a statement. “One has to wonder how Dixie State students can engage in serious political discussions—or any discussion at all—when they are forced to follow the university’s ridiculous policies, which go so far as to forbid any poster in a residence hall that students or administrators can claim creates an ‘uncomfortable’ environment.”

College Fix reporter Andrew Desiderio is a student at George Washington University.

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IMAGES: Courtesy, FIRE

Michael Marshall, a student at Ohio University who was suspended for a semester due to his text messages to a female student, has now sued the college.

Marshall had met the girl in 2013 after he had transferred to the Honors Tutorial College. In the fall of the following year, the duo would “meet for studying and work-related discussions.”

That’s when Marshall began to “attempt to convince” the girl to begin a romantic relationship.

The Post reports:

On Oct. 3, Marshall texted the female student saying: “I don’t know now what you think or feel. What I do know is that you are fabulously attractive and fabulously intelligent in that I know I can tell you all this and that nothing will change between us…”

The female responded that she “liked him a lot, but in a platonic way.”

Between Oct. 12 and late November, Marshall would continue to text the female in an attempt to convince her to be romantically involved with him, though they maintained a “friendly and cordial” relationship in class, according to court documents.

On Nov. 18, OU’s Office for Institutional Equity was notified of a complaint against Marshall, and the female alleged that her academic environment had been disrupted, though she didn’t feel unsafe. On Dec. 12, Marshall was notified that the office would be continuing with an investigation into the allegations. He was then suspended for a semester.

Marshall’s attorneys are now saying that OU’s sexual misconduct policy violates free speech, according to court documents, and that his constitutional rights have been violated.

Court documents show that “the gender of the alleged victim was the motivating factor in the decision to impose harsh discipline upon Marshall.”

Attorneys said the atmosphere at the school is one “where those who lodge a complaint of sexual assault are immediately treated as ‘survivors.'”

Read the full article.

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We finally have an answer on why the grassroots T-shirt campaign at DePaul University known as “Consent the D” folded so quickly: It was indeed a threatened trademark lawsuit by the school.

The DePaulia reports that the campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault, started by a male student and quickly criticized by female activists as “triggering” assault victims, got a cease-and-desist letter from DePaul’s general counsel:

“I’ve spoken to counsel about potential legal issues, and he does not believe that the university has a case,” said Randy Vollrath, a senior and founder of Consent the D. “I spoke with the dean’s office about the cease and desist letter. They were very supportive of me and the fight against sexual violence and in favor of a culture of consent.”

He said Consent the D did not use DePaul’s logo or trademark and that their “D” design was original and “substantially different.” Vollrath announced the end of the movement in a video posted to the group’s Facebook page Nov. 4 and that T-shirt production halted as they “worked to address the issue.”

It’s not the end of the “Consent the D” concept, however, which was intended as a riff on the school basketball slogan “Fear the D” (Demons):

Also, Vollrath said he decided to use Consent the D, a project he came up with months ago, as the topic for his honors thesis.

“I had been working on the movement for a few weeks and I wanted to commit myself 100 percent to making the movement successful,” Vollrath said. “Meanwhile, a deadline was approaching to make a decision on what to write my honors thesis about. The honors thesis will be a retrospective analysis of the extent to which the movement was successful using social entrepreneurship literature.”

Read the DePaulia story.

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IMAGE: Consent the D

In a recent civil rights lawsuit, the son of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, along with a fellow former assistant coach, claim their reputations were “destroyed” when the school fired them during the sordid Jerry Sandusky investigation.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

In the civil rights suit, filed Monday in federal court in Philadelphia, Joseph “Jay” Paterno and Bill Kenney say they suffered collateral damage from the siege of bad publicity for the university after Sandusky was indicted for child sex abuse in November 2011 and the elder Paterno was dismissed after decades as head coach.

Jay Paterno and Kenney were fired in January 2012, shortly after the announcement that the school had hired a new head coach, the suit alleges. At the time, it had been reported that Jay Paterno and the new coach “reached the conclusion” together that Paterno would leave Penn State.

The lawsuit, which seeks at least $1 million in damages for emotional distress and loss of earnings, argues that although the assistant coaches were never implicated of wrongdoing in the Sandusky investigation, their firings stigmatized them in the eyes of potential employers.

All Penn State has offered in response is “It is common practice for incoming head coaches to select their own coaching staff.”

The lawsuit notes that the school “terminated each of them (Paterno and Kenney) at the height of the Sandusky scandal’s dark shroud,” and that no attempt to “preserve the reputations” of the former coaches was made.

Read the full article here.

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Robby Soave at Reason has the story on how one university trampled students’ Constitutional rights, and now they’re fighting back:

Students for Concealed Carry, a gun rights group, is suing Ohio State University for maintaining an illegally broad anti-gun policy that prevents students from carrying guns even when they aren’t on campus property—a violation of state law, according to the group.

State law prohibits students from carrying guns on college campuses. SFCC isn’t fighting that. But the law specifically permits students to bring their guns onto campus as long as they leave them locked in their cars. OSU’s student handbook, however, forbids students from bringing guns onto campus at all, even if the weapons are left behind in locked cars, and even “if otherwise permitted by state law.”

Lawyers representing the two groups, SFCC and Ohioans for Concealed Carry, say public universities can’t trump state law and establish even stricter anti-gun policies.

Read the full article.

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A University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor is suing a former student for posting negative comments on the Internet.

Communications professor Sally Vogl-Bauer is suing her former graduate student Anthony Llewellyn for defamation, according to The Janesville Gazette. This comes after Llewellyn posted videos on YouTube and comments on his blog and TeacherComplaints.com claiming Vogl-Bauer “caused him to fail out of school” and “labeled him as a horrible student,” according to the lawsuit.

A handful of online postings appear to lay out Llewellyn’s case against Vogl-Bauer, though the author of each appears under a different name.

In a YouTube video posted in August by “Sally Vogl-Bauer’sGarbage,” a man who says he was enrolled in Vogl-Bauer’s spring 2013 course says Vogl-Bauer asked him “Why are you here, you don’t belong here,” and suggests his alleged unfair treatment was because of his “learning disability.”

The man claims Vogl-Bauer would take points off assignments for being late that he says were turned in on time, causing him to get a C in her class. As a result the man says he had to drop out of the master’s program. A July 2013 blog post on Blogspot.com by “Barry Grunter” lays out “just some of the grievances” that person has with Vogl-Bauer.

An update posted March 26 says the poster is being sued by Vogl-Bauer for defamation and links to another Blogspot blog, “Sally Vogl-Bauer’s outrageous lawsuit against her student,” which explains the lawsuit. In that post, the author says: “I should also note that I am an African American, one of the few African Americans attending UW-Whitewater,” and that because “the courthouse that I must appear at is in a rural area,” the local jury is more likely to “show sympathy with nonsense lawsuits that would otherwise be thrown out by a judge.”

The blogger says Vogl-Bauer’s attorney, Tim Edwards, contacted him in November saying he had reported the videos to the police because they “physically threatened Sally’s life.” Edwards later “apologized” for reporting the videos to the police, according to the blog’s author.

Edwards released a statement: “Students have a right to express their opinion, but when you go so far beyond that, into a concerted effort to attack somebody’s reputation because things didn’t go your way, that’s much different.”

Edwards asked Llewellyn to remove the critical videos and comments, and filed suit in the Walworth County Court after he refused. Vogl-Bauer is suing for punitive damages and attorney and trial fees, according to the Gazette.

Llewellyn emailed the Eastern Communication Association, of which Vogl-Bauer is a member, as well as the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission to report Vogl-Bauer’s treatment after he failed her class in 2013. Court documents show Llewellyn described Vogl-Bauer as being “degrading, demeaning, and verbally attacking.”

Edwards declined to discuss details of the case but said “Persistent defamation among one’s peers and within a small professional community can be devastating to the career of a well-respected professional such as Ms. Vogl-Bauer,” according to the Gazette.

Vogl-Bauer denies all Llewellyn’s allegations, according to Edwards.

Llewellyn believes he did nothing wrong. “I don’t feel I’ve went [sic] too far with my videos and comments because everything posted basically communicates exactly how Sally Vogl-Bauer treated me,” he told the Gazette in an email.

The university says it allows students to fill out online evaluations of their professor anonymously at the end of each semester, according to the Gazette.

The case will go to trial in September, according to ABC News.

College Fix contributor Kyle Brooks is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

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IMAGE: Arden’s Way of Life/Flickr