University of Georgia: Student Faces Charges for Complaint about Parking Services

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of Georgia

On August 17, 2010, University of Georgia graduate student Jacob Lovell e-mailed UGA Parking Services with a joking complaint about what he perceived to be its poor job of providing parking for scooters. Parking Services reported his e-mail to UGA’s judicial affairs office. On September 3, 2010, Associate Dean of Students Kimberly Ellis notified Lovell that the university had charged him with "disorderly conduct" and "disrupt[ing] parking services when he sent an email to them that was threatening." After FIRE wrote UGA President Michael F. Adams, explaining that Lovell’s grievance was protected by the First Amendment and that administrators could be held personally liable by a court for such a violation of students’ constitutional rights, UGA finally withdrew the charges, but Lovell had been under the threat of significant punishment for a month.

  • Protecting speech on college campus

    March 15, 2011

    Should the University of Georgia be a campus where anyone – no matter how thin-skinned – can invoke disciplinary mechanisms for speech they find offensive? UGA’s current anti-harassment provisions lack the precision the U.S. Supreme Court requires for the regulation of speech, “our most precious” freedom. UGA’s policies are as flawed as the infamous University of Wisconsin and University of Michigan policies federal courts found to be unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. President Michael Adams’ recent announcement that UGA’s restrictive Non-Discrimination and Harassment Policy (NDAH) is being reviewed is a positive development. But last month’s revelation that student affairs officials want […]

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  • Free Speech, Dangerous Speech, and Scootergate (Video)

    January 13, 2011

    In the aftermath of the unconscionable events that took place in Arizona this weekend, there’s been a lot of heated discussion about tone, rhetoric, and the consequences of “inflammatory” speech. Unfortunately, commentators have occasionally confused their anger and condemnation of some of the more overheated rhetoric in our political culture with an argument against free speech itself. There is irony in this because free speech exists in large part so we can criticize, discuss, and parse through issues–including the accuracy of rhetoric, the tone of discussion, and the consequences of ideas. While a discussion about tone, rhetoric–and, most of all, […]

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  • Student gets in trouble for e-mail on scooter parking

    September 26, 2010

    Put this in the “what-were-they-thinking” category. “They” are officials at the University of Georgia, who took exception to a mocking e-mail sent by a student complaining about the location of available parking for scooters on campus. As reported by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the school actually invites students to send positive and negative feedback to Parking Services, so student Jacob Lovell sent an e-mail Aug. 17 that said the following (note that I took out some language not allowed on the Post Web site): “Why isn’t there any scooter parking near Aderhold, according to your parking […]

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  • Foul e-mail nearly costs grad student

    September 25, 2010

    University of Georgia officials have called off disciplinary proceedings against a graduate student who sent an irate and profane e-mail to parking services, complaining about the lack of scooter parking on campus. “Why isn’t there any scooter parking near Aderhold, according to your parking map,” graduate student Jacob Lovell wrote Aug. 18 in an e-mail to UGA’s Parking Services Department. “There’s like a billion places to park on north campus and over by the Georgia Center, but nothing anywhere close to Aderhold. What the hell? Did you guys just throw darts at a map to decide where to put scooter […]

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  • University of Georgia punishes student for parking complaint

    September 22, 2010

    Think twice before you make a complaint about parking at the University of Georgia. When student Jacob Lovell submitted an email to the UGA Parking Services, he was then threatened with charges of “disorderly conduct” and “disruption” by the associate dean of students, Kimberly Ellis. (Click here for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s press release.) “Specifically, it is alleged that Mr. Lovell engaged in disorderly conduct and disrupted parking services when he sent an email to them that was threatening.” The email was sent to “parking@uga.edu,” which solicits comments from patrons “both positive and negative.” Here’s the email […]

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  • UGA Professor Calls for School to Reform Speech Codes in ‘Atlanta Journal-Constitution’

    March 21, 2011

    For University of Georgia (UGA) journalism professor William E. Lee, UGA’s decision to review its current Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy is a step in the right direction. Not so that the screws can be tightened on free speech, as is too often the case, but so that UGA officials can put the policy in line with the First Amendment. In his guest column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Lee reminds readers that “UGA’s current anti-harassment provisions lack the precision the U.S. Supreme Court requires for the regulation of speech, ‘our most precious’ freedom,” and points out that “UGA’s policies are as […]

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  • Free Speech Awakening at University of Georgia?

    March 1, 2011

    Something good for free speech might be happening at the University of Georgia (UGA), and I don’t mean the quiet retirement of the “Party in the UGA” orientation video. At the beginning of this academic year, UGA brought us Scootergate (video), in which a student was brought up on charges after he sent some negative feedback to UGA Parking Services. (After FIRE intervened, UGA dropped the charges.) UGA also literally brought us the speech police—between August 1 and September 27, 2010, eight police reports were filed for “acts of intolerance,” mainly involving constitutionally protected expression, such as the words “Dick and […]

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  • FIRE Highlights UGA’s ‘Scootergate’ in New Video

    January 13, 2011

    When University of Georgia (UGA) student Jacob Lovell wrote a frustrated e-mail to the school’s Parking Services about the lack of places on campus to park his scooter, he had no idea that his e-mail would lead to formal charges from the university for disruption and “conduct that causes or provokes a disturbance.” Only after FIRE got involved did UGA back down from the charges, concluding there was insufficient evidence to justify them. Now, FIRE has chronicled Lovell’s travails in our newest video, “Scootergate!” The video is a humorous treatment of Lovell’s case, since it has to be counted among […]

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  • Greg Introduces FIRE’s New ‘Scootergate!’ Video on ‘Huffington Post’

    January 13, 2011

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff writes in The Huffington Post today about the significance of free speech in light of the recent debates over “hate speech” following the tragic shootings in Arizona. Greg emphasizes how granting the power to censor often leads those in authority to censor any criticism of themselves, and points to the case of University of Georgia student Jacob Lovell, whose experiences are profiled in our newest video, “Scootergate.”

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  • Scootergate!

    January 13, 2011

    On August 17, 2010, University of Georgia graduate student Jacob Lovell e-mailed a complaint to UGA Parking Services concerning limited scooter parking. Although Parking Services specifically asks students for both “negative & positive” comments, Lovell spent nearly a month under the threat of punishment after submitting his complaint.

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  • Victory for Free Speech Nets Victory for Scooter Users at UGA

    October 13, 2010

    Here’s a fun development after FIRE’s victory on behalf of University of Georgia (UGA) student Jacob Lovell, who faced charges of “disorderly conduct” and “disruption” for e-mailing UGA Parking Services a complaint about campus scooter parking on campus. As the Athens Banner-Herald reports, Lovell was far from alone in registering his dissatisfaction with scooter parking, and UGA has finally listened. The Banner-Herald reports: Scooters will get more parking spaces, many of them conveniently placed near UGA buildings where students congregate, such as the Miller Learning Center and Snelling Hall, a UGA dining hall. Parking officials hope scooter riders like the […]

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  • University of Georgia in the News After Trying to Punish Student for Parking Complaint

    September 29, 2010

    As one might expect with a case stemming from a complaint over parking accommodations that resulted in the threat of disciplinary charges for University of Georgia (UGA) student Jacob Lovell, much of the public’s reaction to UGA’s behavior has been along the lines of: really? As in, UGA really thought Lovell’s e-mail constituted a threat? See Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss, who opens with: Put this in the “what-were-they-thinking” category. And closes with: The case was closed. But why was it ever opened? Similarly, Becca Nadler, blogging for Saxaspeak (a blogging arm of the Georgetown University paper The Hoya) begins: […]

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  • Victory in Georgia: Student Cleared of Charges for Complaint about Campus Parking

    September 22, 2010

    Today’s press release tells the curious tale of University of Georgia (UGA) student Jacob Lovell, who wanted to find parking for his scooter when he drove to class. Not finding enough parking close enough to class, he e-mailed UGA Parking Services with his complaint about its service. His flippant and joking e-mail mused, “Did you guys just throw darts at a map to decide where to put scooter corrals?” and otherwise made fun of the department for what he perceived to be its poor job of providing parking for scooters. The response from Parking Services, in its entirety: “Your e-mail […]

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  • Victory in Georgia: Student Cleared of Charges for Complaint about Campus Parking

    September 22, 2010

    ATLANTA, Sept. 22, 2010—The University of Georgia (UGA) has withdrawn charges of “disorderly conduct” and “disruption” filed against a student after he sent a mocking e-mail to UGA Parking Services to complain about the lack of parking spaces for scooters on campus. Although Parking Services specifically asks students for both “negative & positive” comments on its performance, student Jacob Lovell spent nearly a month under the threat of punishment after submitting his e-mail. UGA backed down after Lovell came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Jacob Lovell just wanted to park his scooter on campus, and […]

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