Central Michigan Student Convicted In Absentia

By March 6, 2008

Central Michigan University (CMU) student and political activist Dennis Lennox has been convicted by university authorities of violating sections 3.2.2 (providing false information to a university official) and 3.2.15 (not identifying himself to a university agent when asked) of the CMU Student Code of Conduct and section 3.2.32 (distributing printed materials in violation of the Advocacy Policy) of the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Disciplinary Procedures (see below for policies). The hearing apparently took place on February 27, 2008, after Lennox had been forced to leave for refusing to turn off his video camera.

FIRE reported on Lennox’s long history of conflict with CMU here. He is the spokesman for Students Against Gary Peters (SAGP). Peters is a CMU professor running for Congress, and SAGP has argued that Peters should choose between running for political office and teaching on the campus. The long conflict involves several issues of free expression, the right to make recordings of public officials, and due process, but the hearing focused on one particular incident.

The incident took place on October 23, 2007. That evening, Lennox distributed copies of "The Peters Report," the SAGP newsletter, in a campus building next to a few other student publications. According to Lennox, he noticed a man confiscating the newsletters and approached him, asking why he was removing them. The man claimed that they were being placed in violation of CMU’s distribution policy, and he asked for Lennox’s name. Lennox did not recognize the person as a CMU official and refused to answer until the man identified himself. The man refused. The man again asked for Lennox’s name. Still unsure whether the man was a CMU official, Lennox said "Dick Cheney" and left.

The man, later identified as English professor Peter Koper, filed a complaint against Lennox with Tony Voisin, Director of the Office of Student Life and Assistant Dean of Students, not identifying Lennox. Voisin responded by e-mail with a picture of Lennox (not exactly a foolproof line-up), and Koper replied that Lennox was indeed the student he had met on October 23.

A letter of reprimand is to be placed in Lennox’s file. The relevant documents can be viewed here. Lennox is appealing the decision.