Letter from FIRE to FGCU General Counsel Vee Leonard, October 25, 2011

By October 25, 2011

October 25, 2011 

Vee Leonard, General Counsel
Florida Gulf Coast University
Office of the General Counsel
10501 FGCU Boulevard South
Fort Myers, Florida 33965 

Sent via U.S. Mail and Facsimile (239-590-7470)

Dear Ms. Leonard:

Thank you for your reply of August 4, 2011, to FIRE’s July 22 letter regarding Dylan Lintelman. I appreciate your conveyance of President Bradshaw’s sentiment that Florida Gulf Coast University "supports the free expression of its students."

Your response cuts to the heart of FIRE’s concern for free speech at FGCU. In stating that FGCU’s employment termination letter is an "education record[]" and is not part of his "official personnel file," your letter acknowledges that Mr. Lintelman’s activity as a resident assistant (RA) primarily involved his status as a student.

It is inconsistent with the mission of a public university to require that its student employees be "Ambassadors" of the university at all times. They are students first, and they often need their campus jobs in order to remain enrolled. Yet, you did not deny the assertion in our letter that Associate Director for the Office of Housing and Residence Life Jameson Moschella insisted that Lintelman uphold the "Ambassador" and "social role model" portions of the resident assistant position requirements in order to remain employed. As we stated, Lintelman reported that on July 13, 2010, Moschella told him that "as an employee of FGCU I had no right to speak my mind against the administration on Facebook or in a [p]ublic [f]orum whether I agreed or not" and that Moschella had "25 other alternate RA’s willing to take my spot" who would keep their mouths shut.

Again, Moschella’s unreasonable expectations harm the marketplace of ideas at FGCU and prevent and inhibit students from making efforts to voice criticism that might improve student life at the university. FIRE requests that FGCU communicate to its student employees, particularly its RAs, that although they are employees, they are nevertheless free to criticize the university in a wide variety of circumstances and to speak on matters of public concern. Further, given FGCU’s apparent acknowledgment that Lintelman served as an RA as part of his education, we again ask that FGCU reconsider the basis of his termination in light of FIRE’s First Amendment concerns and rescind the termination letter in his student records.

We request a response to this letter by November 15, 2011.

Sincerely,

Adam Kissel
Vice President of Programs 

cc:
Wilson G. Bradshaw, President, Florida Gulf Coast University
J. Michael Rollo, Vice President for Student Affairs, Florida Gulf Coast University
Jameson Moschella, Associate Director, Residence Education, Florida Gulf Coast University
Jimmy Myers, Director, Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, Florida Gulf Coast University