FIRE Letter to Hamline University President Linda Hanson, November 7, 2007

By November 11, 2007

November 7, 2007

President Linda Hanson

Office of the President

Hamline University MS-C1914

1536 Hewitt Avenue

St. Paul, Minnesota 55104

Sent via U.S. Mail and Facsimile (651-523-2030)

Dear President Hanson:

As you know, FIRE first wrote to you on May 29, 2007, regarding Hamline University’s suspension of Troy Scheffler. We explained that Mr. Scheffler’s e-mails of April 17 and April 19 did not meet the legal definition of a “threat” and asked that you lift his “interim suspension.” Your response of June 11, 2007, claimed that Scheffler’s interim suspension was motivated by three factors: his e-mails of April 17 and 19; his failure to meet with you after you invited him to do so; and “critical input” from unnamed “members of the Hamline community.”

In reply, we wrote you again on September 29, 2007, reiterating our grave concerns about Scheffler’s treatment and detailing the numerous problems with your response of June 11, 2007. As we explained in our last letter, the three factors you cited to justify Scheffler’s suspension are markedly insufficient and offer precious little support for such an extreme punishment. Because of Hamline’s failure to provide suitable justification for Scheffler’s expulsion—indeed, the university’s failure to follow its own student judiciary policies—we asked Hamline to immediately reinstate Scheffler and drop its requirement of a mandatory psychological evaluation. At the very least, we asked that Hamline notify Scheffler of the charges against him, allow him an opportunity to face his accusers, and afford him a chance to present his version of the story to an impartial panel. To our substantial dismay, we have yet to receive a response to our request.

We remain particularly troubled by Hamline’s continuing refusal to be fully forthcoming regarding the reasons for Scheffler’s suspension. The third determining factor you cite in your June 11, 2007, letter—i.e., the input of individuals who “came forward on their own prior to the April emails, expressing their concerns about Mr. Scheffler”—remains frustratingly cryptic, as you refuse to inform Scheffler of the nature of these concerns or the identity of his accusers. In addition to violating Hamline’s Dean of Students’ “Student Judicial System” policy, such a refusal mocks our society’s conceptions of judicial fairness. This stonewalling in the face of eminently reasonable requests for due process in accordance with your school’s own policies is a completely inappropriate institutional stance for a modern liberal arts university.

To be clear: Scheffler’s education has been interrupted due to speech entirely protected by both the Constitution and Hamline’s own policies. If he has been punished for other reasons, Hamline has an established duty to afford Scheffler the due process promised him by Hamline’s own policies.

As we did in our letter of September 29, we ask yet again that Hamline University drop its demand of a mandatory psychological evaluation and end Troy Scheffler’s interim suspension. At the very least, Hamline must immediately notify Scheffler of the mysterious charges leveled against him by unknown accusers, allowing him a chance to face them and present his own side of this distressing ordeal. To do anything less is both unfair and unlawful.

FIRE remains committed to seeing this matter through to a just and moral conclusion. We appreciate your attention to this matter and request a response by November 27, 2007.

Sincerely,

Greg Lukianoff
President
cc:

David Stern, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, Hamline University

Julian Schuster, Dean of Graduate School of Management, Hamline University

Shirleen Hoffman, Director of Safety and Security, Hamline University

Alan Sickbert, Dean of Students, Hamline University

Patti Klein, Assistant Dean of Students, Hamline University

Kenneth Woodrow, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Hamline University

Rodney W. Jordan, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees, Hamline University

Kita McVay, Second Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees, Hamline University

Peg Birk, Secetary, Hamline University

Allan R. DeBoer, Treasurer, Hamline University

Connie Bakken, Trustee, Hamline University

John Banovetz, Trustee, Hamline University

Ann Bentdahl-Wessels, Trustee, Hamline University

Mary Brainerd, Trustee, Hamline University

Laura Chin, Trustee, Hamline University

Sally Dyck, Trustee, Hamline University

Irving D. Fish, Trustee, Hamline University

Winston Folkers, Trustee, Hamline University

Joan L. Gardner, Trustee, Hamline University

Joseph P. Graba, Trustee, Hamline University

Richard A. Hoel, Trustee, Hamline University

Charles H. Johnson, Trustee, Hamline University

Gloria Kauls, Trustee, Hamline University

Gwen Lerner, Trustee, Hamline University

Barbara K. Lupient, Trustee, Hamline University

Katherine Austin Mahle, Trustee, Hamline University

David Petrocchi, Trustee, Hamline University

Joel Portice, Trustee, Hamline University

Robb Prince, Trustee, Hamline University

Bruce Robbins, Trustee, Hamline University

Mary Schrock, Trustee, Hamline University

Gary Stern, Trustee, Hamline University

Gloria Roach Thomas, Trustee, Hamline University

Ricardo Paul Vallejos, Trustee, Hamline University

Troy Scheffler

Encl.

Schools: Hamline University Cases: Hamline University: Student Suspended after Advocating Concealed Carry on Campus