College president fined over free speech violation

posted at 4:01 pm on February 2, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

An interesting story of free speech on America’s college campuses comes to us this week from College Insurrection. Back in 2007, the president of Valdosta State University was pushing a proposal for a new campus construction project. When the plan drew criticism from one student on environmental and political grounds (from a decidedly liberal perspective) in the form of a Facebook post, President Ronald Zaccari had Hayden Barnes kicked out of school. After many years of court wrangling, Mr. Barnes appears to have prevailed.

Absurdly declared a “clear and present danger” and kicked off of campus in 2007 because of his opposition to a parking garage project that former president Zaccari saw as part of his “legacy,” Barnes filed a federal lawsuit against Zaccari and his employer in 2008…

Zaccari appealed this finding, and it went all the way to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, where Zaccari lost. When the appeals were finished and the case came before a jury, the jig was up: Zaccari personally owes Barnes $50,000—and the court has not even assessed attorneys’ fees yet.

The details of the construction project in question make the case even more bizarre.

Barnes’ ordeal began in the spring of 2007, when he protested Zaccari’s plan to construct two new parking garages on campus at a cost of $30 million. By posting flyers and sending emails to Zaccari, student and faculty governing bodies, and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, Barnes expressed his concerns and proposed what he saw as environmentally friendly alternatives. Barnes also penned a letter to the editor of the VSU student newspaper about the proposed parking garage plans and wrote to Zaccari to ask for an exemption from the mandatory student fee designated for funding the construction.

In response to Barnes’ activism, Zaccari personally ordered that he be “administratively withdrawn” from VSU in May of 2007, ignoring the concerns raised by members of his administration.

You can find a .pdf file of the Facebook post which kicked all of this off here. Aside from the obvious “no blood for oil” and green warrior bias, I’m not sure what got everyone so upset about it. (Of course, the resolution isn’t that great, so maybe I’m missing something.) Agree or disagree with the posting, though, the actions of the college president clearly seemed heavy handed. A $50K smackdown will probably send a significant message here.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Oh oh!

KOOLAID2 on February 2, 2013 at 4:08 PM

A $50K smackdown will probably send a significant message here.

…oh wait until you see the “attorney fees” !

KOOLAID2 on February 2, 2013 at 4:10 PM

I hate people like that:

I knew a guy who boycotted Stop and Shop because he thought one of their new stores took up too much space impacting the environment. Nevermind that this hypocrite worked at a large manufacturing complex.

Such a stupid mindset. It actually helps the human race and these tree huggers are whining about it.

LevinFan on February 2, 2013 at 4:11 PM

Hayden Barnes kicked out of school

…he’ll get an Honorary Doctorate…in no time!

KOOLAID2 on February 2, 2013 at 4:12 PM

IMHO, both sides were totally wrong!

OldEnglish on February 2, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Want to find truly stupid people?

Go to a university. They are administrating, lecturing, and enrolled.

tom daschle concerned on February 2, 2013 at 4:26 PM

Agree or disagree with the posting, though, the actions of the college president clearly seemed heavy handed. A $50K smackdown will probably send a significant message here.

I think an important aspect here is that this is a STATE university. I suspect the right to dissent is different when attending a private institution. Though heavy-handed presidents (or boards of regents) can clearly muck up the administration as UVA recently found out.

I went to a school with a strongly conservative student body and a decidedly liberal faculty. Yet we managed to survive. For a university president to become vindictive over one student proves more than anything an unfitness for the office he held. So long as the project was legal and justifiable, dissent should have played out in the process without students getting kicked out of school for exercising their First Amendment rights.

And BTW, isn’t college where young people should get through their “no blood for oil” naivity before they grow up and figure out the world is far more complex than black/white/and a few shades of gray?

Happy Nomad on February 2, 2013 at 4:30 PM

You mean brainwashing students with progressive nonsense might interfere with construction on campus?

forest on February 2, 2013 at 4:30 PM

You mean brainwashing students with progressive nonsense might interfere with construction on campus?

forest on February 2, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Heh! Standing up clapping!

Let a school preach the benefits of the collective good in the classrooms but that doesn’t mean they want the ideology to leak over into their facilities planning.

Happy Nomad on February 2, 2013 at 4:33 PM

If you don’t like the kid speaking then don’t complain when the school board kicks you out of the meeting for your NRA bumper sticker. I don’t agree with the greenies, but the 1a is the 1a, just like the 2a is the 2a.

Limerick on February 2, 2013 at 4:39 PM

How stupid is Zaccari? I know of few colleges or universities that don’t have parking problems and it’s probably safe to say that 98% of the campus was thrilled with two new options and would have ignored Mr. Barnes. Pres. Zaccari looks more than a little thin skinned and deserves this little additional cost to his legacy. Does anyone think if the tables were turned that Mr. Barnes would defend our free speech rights if he disagreed (and he would on almost everything)with us on an issue?

Cindy Munford on February 2, 2013 at 4:44 PM

These academic types espouse free speech except when they don’t, which happens whenever something is said that disturbs they’re libtard view of the world.

Mr. Curly on February 2, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Such a stupid mindset. It actually helps the human race and these tree huggers are whining about it.

LevinFan on February 2, 2013 at 4:11 PM

It’s precisely because it helps the human race that the tree huggers whine about it.

Washington Nearsider on February 2, 2013 at 4:57 PM

Now, if only they would get fined for violating the free speech rights of conservative students, maybe we could start doing away with the stupid “speech codes” on college campi.

College Prof on February 2, 2013 at 4:58 PM

Does anyone think if the tables were turned that Mr. Barnes would defend our free speech rights if he disagreed (and he would on almost everything)with us on an issue?

Cindy Munford on February 2, 2013 at 4:44 PM

He’s hard left wing. Of course he wouldn’t agree with our rights. But that does not make it right in the way he was punished for dissent.

You pointed out the really stupid thing about this. Barnes opposition was utterly meaningless. By the time one of these projects go through the whole process, there is ample room for expressing dissent. For a university president to go out after an individual student is what lost the case.

Happy Nomad on February 2, 2013 at 4:58 PM

Mr. Curly on February 2, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Including another libtard.

Cindy Munford on February 2, 2013 at 4:59 PM

Happy Nomad on February 2, 2013 at 4:58 PM

I agree, I think this is an obvious abuse of power and Pres. Zaccari is lucky I didn’t have any say in the matter.

Cindy Munford on February 2, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Free speech on college campuses? You naively assume that seeking and speaking the truth has something to do with education I’ll bet?

Don L on February 2, 2013 at 5:07 PM

I guess it’s the small-l “l”ibertarian in me, but I am a little disappointed in some of the comments..Who cares WHY, the young man was administratively withdrawn? This was a gross violation of his rights…and in striking this blow, EVERYONE’s rights are re-affirmed, not just some tree-hugger.

As to those complaining he wuldn’t ahve done it for you, again, WHO CARES? The Nazi’s wouldn’t let the Jews march if they ran Chicago, but that’s not the point….the Nazi’s had the right to march in Skokie. A violation of this tree-hugger’s or the Nazi’s rights just make it easier to violate YOUR rights.

JFKY on February 2, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Bet the college president end of filing Bky to discharge the judgment. If this went to the 11th Circuit and back before trial the attorney fees will easily top a half million dollars – probably double that.

tommyboy on February 2, 2013 at 5:54 PM

$50K is chump change for 5 years of your life. $500K is much more appropriate.

HopeHeFails on February 2, 2013 at 5:55 PM

A parking garage as a legacy?

pat on February 2, 2013 at 5:56 PM

His letter to the President says clearly that he’ll have no part in paying the fees or supporting the project in any way, as it would violate his ethics, yadda yadda. The President should’ve just asked him to put up or shut up, and let him pay the fees or withdraw from school. Unless there was some content in his writing or behavior that was truly a threat, should’ve let the kid just keep being misguided to his heart’s content.

Midas on February 2, 2013 at 6:08 PM

This is one case you can’t believe the defense didn’t settle before trial.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on February 2, 2013 at 7:00 PM

A $50K smackdown will probably send a significant message here.

Maybe some of the parents of those kids expelled from school for bringing in “guns” will take note and start filing some claims against INDIVIDUAL school authorities.

Nothing changes behavior faster that grabbing someone’s wallet and extracting cash.

GarandFan on February 2, 2013 at 7:54 PM

I love a good Liberal on liberal Cat fight. Happening more and more as liberal’s ideology meets the usual conclusion…Unintended conquences.

Maddysdaddy on February 2, 2013 at 8:43 PM

#1 – most of the case was summarily dismissed Pre-trial against VSU, only the personal suit against the president persisted

#2 the plaintiff attys were originally looking for millions, not 50K – a first amendment suit against the state would likely have gotten them this if they prevailed.

#3 allegedly, there were anonymous threats against the university president and destruction of property at his residence – these were NEVER linked to anyone — i’ll give you one guess who the president suspects did it.

#4 these threats and property destruction occurred the same approximate time of the V.Tech shooting

#5 This really was a win for VSU not the plaintiff.

- Jazz I expect better

Green_Bay_Packers on February 3, 2013 at 10:16 AM

This really was a win for VSU not the plaintiff.

- Jazz I expect better

Green_Bay_Packers on February 3, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Since VSU doesn’t have to pull out the check-book, you are correct. This does not detract from the fact that a University President is going to go broke because of his ego.

BigAlSouth on February 3, 2013 at 12:28 PM

Two dirtbags fighting. I’m almost tempted to say, “May the best dirtbag win!”, but they are both dirtbags and so we are the losers no matter what. Free speech on american campuses is a fiction and has been for many years.

woodNfish on February 3, 2013 at 8:39 PM

And BTW, isn’t college where young people should get through their “no blood for oil” naivity before they grow up and figure out the world is far more complex than black/white/and a few shades of gray?

Happy Nomad on February 2, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Fifty is definitely more than a few, HN. Just sayin’.

GWB on February 4, 2013 at 10:18 AM