Valdosta State University

Location: Valdosta, Georgia
Website: http://www.valdosta.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 11th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Valdosta State University has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.

  • Valdosta State University: Freedom of Expression on Campus Limited to Unconstitutional Free Speech Zone

    November 30, 2007

    Valdosta State University (VSU) President Patrick J. Schloss announced that VSU would rescind its unconstitutional policy that had restricted campus speech to a “free speech zone,” a move that prompted FIRE to remove VSU from its Red Alert list. VSU’s previous policy restricted the free expression of all “persons wishing to speak on campus” to one small stage, the use of which was restricted to two non-consecutive hours per day-and only on weekdays. FIRE wrote former VSU President Ronald Zaccari to inform him that VSU “cannot lawfully quarantine free expression to just one area of the school’s 168-acre campus.” FIRE […]

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  • Valdosta State University: Student Expelled for Peacefully Protesting Parking Garages

    October 23, 2007

    The University of Georgia System’s Board of Regents reversed the expulsion of student Hayden Barnes from Valdosta State University (VSU) after he filed a federal lawsuit against VSU for violating his constitutional rights. Barnes had protested former President Ronald Zaccari’s plan to use $30 million in student fees to construct two parking garages on campus. To protest the planned garages, Barnes posted flyers and sent e-mails to Zaccari, student and faculty governing bodies, and the Board of Regents, in order to detail his environmental concerns with its construction. President Zaccari sought Barnes’ expulsion on the grounds that Barnes was a […]

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Red Light Policies

  • Information Resources Acceptable Use Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Prohibited activities when using University electronic mail shall include, but not be limited to, sending or arranging to receive the following: … * Any material that may defame, libel, abuse, tarnish, present a bad image of, or portray in a false light, the University, the University System, the recipient, the sender, or any other person. * Offensive material, chain letters, unauthorized mass mailings, email hoaxes, or malicious code.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Anti-Harassment Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when: … Such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with the individual’s work or educational performance; of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working and/or learning environment; or of interfering with one’s ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or activity.

    Examples of sexual harassment may include, but are not limited to the following:

    1. Physical Assault.
    2. Direct or implied threats that submission to sexual advances will be a condition of  employment, work status, compensation, promotion, grades, or letters of recommendation.
    3. Sexual advances, physical or implied, or direct propositions of a sexual nature. This activity may include inappropriate/unnecessary touching or rubbing against another, sexually suggestive or degrading jokes or comments, remarks of a sexual nature about one’s clothing and/or body, preferential treatment in exchange for sexual activity, and the inappropriate display of sexually explicit pictures, text, printed materials, or objects that do not serve an academic purpose.
    4. A pattern of conduct, which can be subtle in nature that has sexual overtones and is intended to create or has the effect of creating discomfort and/or that, humiliates another.
    5. Remarks speculating about a person’s sexual activities or sexual history, or remarks about one’s own sexual activities or sexual history that does not serve a medical or academic purpose.

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  • Student Handbook: Non-Academic Conduct Code – Disorderly Conduct 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies

    All forms of harassment, intimidation, coercion, threats, sexual or relationship violence and any other forms of disorderly conduct e.g. bullying, sexual assault, stalking / cyber stalking, and terroristic threats are strictly prohibited.

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  • Student Handbook: General Public Forum Venue Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    Valdosta State university embraces the value of free speech and provides numerous opportunities for free speech. Examples of free speech opportunities include, but are not limited to uncensored: plays, lectures, entertainment, classroom discussions, concerts, art exhibitions and student sponsored programs and activities, which take place at various venues including classrooms, auditoria, and the campus green. Individuals may wish to engage in public discussion or debate outside of these activities. Valdosta State university provides a public forum venue for this purpose. Valdosta State University reserves the right to regulate the time, manner and place
    of public activities on its campus in accordance with the law. The primary Public Forum Venue is the stage on the Palms Quadrangle on main campus, which is located next to the primary student dining facility and several student residence halls. Valdosta State may designate an alternative area(s) to accommodate large crowds or other special needs.

    To avoid conflicts in scheduling, reservation requests for the Public Forum Venue are made through the Dean of Students Office, in consultation with the Event Services Office. a two day notice is required for requesting this space. Areas will be assigned on a first come first serve basis.

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Green Light Policies
  • College: Where Free Speech Goes to Die

    March 4, 2013

    The value of the university once lay in its providing a nurturing space for what English poet and essayist Matthew Arnold called “the free play of the mind upon all subjects,” which would foster the “instinct prompting [the mind] to try to know the best that is known and thought in the world, irrespective of practice, politics, and everything of the kind.” Critical to these enterprises is the notion of academic freedom––the ability to study, teach, and talk about subjects, no matter how controversial, without fear of retribution or censorship. For only by discussing openly a wide range of subjects […]

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  • Censorship 1, Fun 0: U of Alabama Frosh Ticketed for Harlem Shake Video Shoot

    February 19, 2013

    The Crimson Tide was ready to Harlem Shake — but then the police showed up and shut down a student’s music video. Yesterday afternoon, University of Alabama freshman Nojan Radfar learned a hard and fast lesson about the absurdity of campus censorship. Like countless others across the nation, Radfar wanted his fellow students to represent their beloved school by putting a unique University of Alabama twist on the “Harlem Shake” phenomenon currently enthralling our country. Before we go any further with Radfar’s story, here’s the obligatory “Harlem Shake” primer for those readers over the age of 25 and/or living in a cave: […]

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  • Campus Clampdowns on Free Speech Flunk Their Legal Tests

    February 16, 2013

    In a case that may help end the decades-long scandal of speech codes on college campuses, a federal jury in Georgia this month held the former president of a public university personally liable for violating the basic rights of one of his students. In 2007, Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari expelled student Hayden Barnes after Mr. Barnes protested Mr. Zaccari’s plan to construct two new parking garages on campus. Mr. Barnes believed that the university should pursue more environmentally friendly alternatives, and he let the campus community know his opinion through a determined yet civil campaign, including posting flyers […]

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  • Campus Clampdowns on Free Speech Flunk Their Legal Tests

    February 16, 2013

    In a case that may help end the decades-long scandal of speech codes on college campuses, a federal jury in Georgia this month held the former president of a public university personally liable for violating the basic rights of one of his students. In 2007, Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari expelled student Hayden Barnes after Mr. Barnes protested Mr. Zaccari’s plan to construct two new parking garages on campus. Mr. Barnes believed that the university should pursue more environmentally friendly alternatives, and he let the campus community know his opinion through a determined yet civil campaign, including posting flyers […]

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  • Jury: College president must pay expelled student $50,000

    February 8, 2013

    A public university president will have to pay $50,000 to a student he wrongfully expelled for protesting the campus’ construction plans, a federal jury ruled. Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari was found guilty of denying due process rights to former student Hayden Barnes, who was expelled from the university in 2007 after raising environmental and cost objections to the construction of two parking garages on campus. Barnes’ opposed the project by writing a letter to the student newspaper and creating a photo collage of the structures and Zaccari. In response, Zaccari labeled Barnes a “clear and present danger” and personally ordered his expulsion. A federal district court ruled that […]

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  • UNIVERSITY PREZ PERSONALLY LIABLE FOR DAMAGES

    February 7, 2013

    In what could be a startling wakeup call to university administrators whose actions sometimes are challenged on constitutional grounds, a jury has found former Valdosta State University President Ronald M. Zaccari personally liable for $50,000 damages for the school’s due process violations of a former student. According to a report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Zaccari had waged a campaign against student Hayden Barnes after Barnes protested Zaccari’s plan to build two parking garages on campus. The administrator had called Barnes’ personal Facebook page a “threatening document” and labeled the student a “clear and present danger.” WND reported […]

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  • Crushing Defeat for Valdosta Administrator

    February 7, 2013

    One of the amazing cases Greg Lukianoff covered in his book Unlearning Liberty is that of Valdosta State, where the university president went on a vendetta against a student who dared to criticize him. That case was just concluded with a victory for the student and a crushing defeat for the high-handed president. Cato’s Ilya Shapiro writes about it here. Let’s hope that this has a chilling effect on college administrators everywhere. Act like a little tyrant and you may pay for it.

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  • FIRE Scores Victory for Wrongly Expelled Valdosta State University Student

    February 7, 2013

    In May of 2007, Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes peacefully protested the university’s plans to build two parking structures at a cost of $30 million. His protest took the form of a collage of cut-and-paste photos with a caption calling the project the “Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage”—a line mocking the university’s president at the time, Ronald M. Zaccari. Barnes posted this on his personal Facebook page, distributed fliers, and sent emails to Zaccari and the Board of Regents. For this activism, Zaccari branded Barnes “a clear and present danger” to VSU and personally ordered him to be “administratively […]

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  • Students Have Free Speech and Due Process Rights Too

    February 5, 2013

    This past Friday, a federal jury in Atlanta sent a powerful message to university administrators across the nation: you cannot violate students’ free speech and due process rights with impunity. The jury found Valdosta State University president Ronald Zaccaripersonally liable for $50,000 in damages for expelling former VSU student Hayden Barnes, who peacefully protested a planned $30-million campus parking garage. The trial and award followed a ruling last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that Zaccarri could not claim the immunity given to public officials acting in their official capacities because he should have known that Barnes was […]

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  • President Personally Liable for Student’s Expulsion, Jury Says

    February 5, 2013

    Inside Higher Ed   A former president of Valdosta State University should be held personally liable for the wrongful expulsion of a student, a federal jury said Friday. The jury found that Ronald M. Zaccari violated the student’s due process rights and must cover the $50,000 due to Hayden Barnes, who was expelled after Zaccari claimed he had been indirectly threatened by a collage Barnes posted on Facebook to protest the construction of two parking garages. In forcing Barnes to withdraw, Zaccari ignored the advice of his staff and circumvented normal procedure that should have awarded Barnes with notice and a hearing […]

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  • Expelled Student Activist Wins $50K Court Judgment Against University President

    February 4, 2013

    An environmental activist expelled from Georgia’s Validosta State University (VSU) has won a $50,000 award in a lawsuit against the university president who kicked him out of school in 2007. In a dramatic rebuke to President Ronald Zaccari, the federal jury that heard the case found Zaccari personally liable for violating Hayden Barnes’ due process rights. The case emerged from a dispute over a planned parking structure that Barnes considered a waste of money and an environmental blight on the campus. At least three times Zaccari reached out to Barnes to complain about his organizing against the garage — which included flyering about other uses to […]

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  • Courtroom Triumph for Free Speech on Campus

    February 4, 2013

    Friends of free expression have reason to celebrate today! That reason is a court decision,Barnes v. Zaccari, holding former Valdosta State University president Ronald M. Zaccari personally liable for violating a student’s right to due process. ACTA supporters can celebrate in a special way, for we were party to an amicus brief filed in the case. In 2007, T. Hayden Barnes, then a student at Valdosta State, began a peaceful protest campaign against proposed new parking garages at Valdosta. He put up flyers around campus, wrote emails to members of students, faculty, and administrators, put up a photo collage on his facebook page, and […]

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  • Federal jury returns Zaccari verdict

    February 2, 2013

    VALDOSTA — While a jury ruled Friday in federal court that former Valdosta State University President, Dr. Ronald M. Zaccari, should not be punished for the 2007 expulsion of Hayden Barnes, jurors determined that Barnes deserved $50,000 in recompense after the former-paramedic and activist was administratively withdrawn from the university for protesting the construction of the campus’ Oak Street parking decks. “We feel vindicated,” said Barnes as he headed out of the court room with his wife and mother at his flanks. Zaccari broke away from hugs and handshakes long enough to decline to comment, but his lawyer, David Will, […]

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  • College President Personally Smacked with $50,000 Bill for Violating Constitution

    February 1, 2013

    There is great news for students from a Georgia jury today, as former Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari has been found liable for $50,000 in damages for unjustly kicking one of his students, Hayden Barnes, out of school for a collage he posted on Facebook. 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. Why did it take so long for justice to […]

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  • Former VSU student trial underway in Valdosta

    January 30, 2013

    VALDOSTA, GA (WALB)- A former Valdosta State University student is in federal court today in Valdosta after he was expelled from the school six years ago for protesting the building of a parking garage. Six years later and a University of Baltimore law school student, Hayden Barnes is back in Valdosta for a civil rights lawsuit. It’s against former VSU President Ronald Zaccari who expelled Barnes in 2007. The trial will determine if Zaccari’s decision to expel Barnes was reasonable and if not the jury will determine if Barnes will recover damages. The prosecution hopes to have a verdict by […]

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  • Six Years After Expulsion for a Peaceful Protest, Decision May Come Any Minute in Infamous “Facebook Collage” Case

    January 30, 2013

    For those Ricochet readers familiar with FIRE’s work, you might recall a case that began six years ago dealing with Hayden Barnes, a student from Valdosta State University (VSU) who was expelled for peacefully protesting the planned construction of a parking garage on campus using a collage he posted on Facebook. I found this case so awful that I made it the opening story in my recent book, Unlearning Liberty. As I write this, Hayden’s case is in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division. This week’s trial follows a series of other federal court rulings denying, among other motions, a motion […]

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  • ‘Unlearning Liberty’

    January 3, 2013

    by Allie Grasgreen Inside Higher Ed In spring of 2007, Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes was expelled for posing a “clear and present danger” to campus. To protest an expensive and environmentally unfriendly parking garage, Barnes had created a collage illustrating potential dangers the garage might cause (smog, environmental destruction, etc.) and posted it on Facebook, calling the project the “[Valdosta State President Ronald] Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage. The “memorial” bit referred to Zaccari’s calling the garage part of his legacy, but the president, who had been assured Barnes was harmless, claimed to take it as an “indirect” threat […]

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  • Free Speech on FIRE

    November 10, 2012

    The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident,” wrote Earl Warren in a 1957 Supreme Court opinion. Apparently, American universities themselves have come to disagree. In Unlearning Liberty, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) president Greg Lukianoff demonstrates that the First Amendment is in serious danger at many institutions of higher learning. Where universities once went to court to protect campus speech from state intrusion, students and even professors must now go to court to keep schools from censoring them. Sometimes schools go beyond censoring unapproved viewpoints, and simply compel students to express the […]

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  • Judge rules Valdosta State student handbook a binding contract; university appeals

    August 2, 2012

    GEORGIA — A former Georgia college student’s lawsuit against the administrator who expelled him without a hearing can continue following a state court decision last week that student handbooks can represent contracts between students and their schools. The Fulton County Superior Court on July 24 rejected the university’s request to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Thomas Barnes against the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Barnes was attending Valdosta State University when he was “administratively withdrawn” by then-President Ronald M. Zaccari in 2007. Barnes was not given a hearing or allowed to contest the expulsion. In his free speech and […]

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  • Eleventh Circuit and Disciplinary Due Process…

    June 18, 2012

    Earlier this year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rendered an opinion affirming traditional due process protections to be provided public college and university students who face disciplinary proceedings in Barnes v. Zaccari.  In Barnes, a student who was perceived to be a threat to campus safety at Valdosta State University by the university president was administratively dismissed by the president without due process.  Other university administrators, including mental health professionals, did not find the student threatening, and university counsel repeatedly warned the president that a dismissal without due process would violate his constitutional rights. The Eleventh Circuit’s opinion reaffirms that students at […]

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  • Judges Let University Prez Face Damage Claim

    June 16, 2012

    The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to let former Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari face a personal damage lawsuit by a student who claims Zaccari unjustly tossed him from the school. The case originated when Zaccari, when he was still president of Valdosta State, ordered student Thomas Hayden Barnes to be “administratively withdrawn,” or expelled, because he alleged Barnes was a threat. A district court said Barnes could seek damages from Zaccari personally, and a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court agreed. Now, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education,  Zaccari’s request for a rehearing before […]

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  • Barnes v. Zaccari: A Public University Cannot Expel a Student Without Offering a Due Process Hearing

    June 4, 2012

    Without a doubt, American colleges and universities have become more vigilant about identifying mentally ill students in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre and the shooting spree in Tucson by alleged shooter Jared Loughner, a former community college student.  Across the country, colleges are creating behavioral intervention teams made up of faculty and staff to identify and evaluate students who appear to be mentally unstable. The primary goal of this heightened vigilance is to protect campus communities from mentally unstable students who might be dangerous to themselves or others. Nevertheless, a college student at a public institution has a […]

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  • Pay for your censorship yourself

    February 17, 2012

    College administrators may be witnessing the end of an era. The blissful days when they could expel a student and force him to undergo ongoing mental health evaluations for posting a collage about a parking garage on Facebook are rapidly slipping into the past. While the heady rush of spending taxpayer dollars on new departments with armies of underlings may soften the blow, can this really outweigh the bitter realization that one can no longer freely violate a student’s constitutional rights? I can only imagine the dismay that too many public university administrators across the country felt last week when […]

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  • Court: former VSU president may be found liable

    February 11, 2012

    NAYLOR — he 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously decided Tuesday that former Valdosta State University president Ronald Zaccari may be found personally liable for violating the due process rights of former VSU student T. Hayden Barnes. In 2007, Barnes protested against Zaccari’s plan to spend $30 million of student fee money to construct two parking garages on campus. He posted flyers and sent e-mails to Zaccari, student and faculty bodies and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to propose environmentally friendly alternatives. Barnes was administratively withdrawn from VSU in May 2007 when Zaccari claimed […]

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  • Students’ rights weighed as colleges try to assess threats

    January 14, 2011

    by Mary Beth Marklein USA TODAY   A growing majority of colleges nationwide are keeping tabs on students through “threat assessment teams” charged with identifying dangerous students, causing debate to erupt over how much power the schools should have as they try to flag disturbing behavior. Two states — Virginia and Illinois — now legally require such teams and 80% of colleges nationwide have started them since the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech that left 32 people dead. At Pima Community College in Arizona, a Behavior Assessment Committee identified alleged gunman Jared Loughner as a person of concern months before […]

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  • A Crucial Courtroom Victory for College Students’ Rights

    September 23, 2010

    by Greg Lukianoff The Huffington Post   A ruling issued earlier this month by a federal district court in Georgia may be one of the most significant victories for students’ rights in recent years. The decision has already sent shockwaves through the higher education community, and the reverberations may be felt for a long time to come. The facts of Barnes v. Zaccari are uniquely memorable. Former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes was expelled from Valdosta State University in 2007 because university president Ronald Zaccari claimed he posed a “clear and present danger” both to the campus and to […]

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  • College chief personally liable for abusing student’s rights

    September 10, 2010

    by Bob Unruh WorldNetDaily   A federal court judge in Georgia has ruled a former college president is financially liable for his expulsion of a student. U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell Jr. court ruled in the case of Valdosta State student Thomas Hayden Barnes, who was expelled in 2007 after he peacefully protested plans by then-President Ronald Zaccari to use $30 million in student activity fees to build a parking garage. The case has been pursued by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which monitors educational institutions for violations of civil rights. Barnes posted flyers around the Georgia campus […]

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  • Federal Judge Finds Former College President Personally Liable in Student-Conduct Case

    September 7, 2010

    A former public-university president who unilaterally dismissed a student may be held personally liable for legal damages, a federal court in Atlanta ruled last week. The case involves Ronald M. Zaccari, a former president of Valdosta State University, and T. Hayden Barnes, who, as a sophomore in the spring of 2007, had protested plans to build parking garages on the campus by, among other things, posting fliers and a collage that referred to a “memorial parking deck.” That May, Mr. Zaccari informed Mr. Barnes in a letter that he presented a “clear and present danger” and had been administratively withdrawn […]

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  • The campus culture wars in two videos

    April 21, 2009

    Two weeks ago, I was working as a staff member at a Buddhist retreat in New York City. On the way to lunch, I was discussing with our instructor for the weekend the passions and anger often ignited when fighting for free speech on campus. He was surprised to hear that sometimes my work is poorly received by my fellow New Yorkers. In his words, “everyone must just assume you’re a white hat,” meaning the good guy in a Western movie. (Not much a Western fan myself, I needed that one explained.) But I told him that was not always […]

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  • Order issued in lawsuit

    November 24, 2008

    U.S. District Court Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. issued his first order in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes, who was expelled last year. In his order, Pannell granted VSU’s motion to dismiss the first two counts of Barnes’ lawsuit, which allege that all defendants (including VSU, former VSU President Dr. Ronald Zaccari, the Board of Regents and several VSU administrators) deprived Barnes of his First Amendment rights as well as his rights to procedural and substantive due process guaranteed by the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions, according to a press release from […]

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  • Back to school for outspoken student

    January 18, 2008

    Months after first reviewing the expulsion of a student activist from Valdosta State University, the Georgia Board of Regents agreed to allow T. Hayden Barnes—once dubbed a “clear and present danger” to the campus by its president, Ronald Zaccari—to return to his studies, reversing the university’s May decision to “administratively withdraw” him. Barnes initially attracted Zaccari’s ire when he publicly criticized the president’s plan to build two parking garages on campus using $30 million of students’ mandatory fees. Besides writing letters to administrators and sending mass e-mail messages, Barnes had posted a collage of images to his Facebook profile that […]

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  • Georgia Regents reverse student’s expulsion from Valdosta State U.

    January 18, 2008

    The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has reversed a decision by the president of one of its campuses to expel a student who had protested plans to build parking garages there. The student, T. Hayden Barnes, who had just finished his sophomore year at Valdosta State University… To read the rest of this story, please visit http://chronicle.com/daily/2008/01/1301n.htm

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  • Board of Regents reverses VSU expulsion

    January 17, 2008

    A Valdosta State University student says he was expelled for voicing his opinion.  Now, he can return to school. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education says the board of regents reversed President Ronald Zaccari’s decision to expel sophomore Hayden Barnes. Barnes says he was expelled for peacefully protesting the construction of two new $30 million parking decks on campus and that Zaccari felt threatened by his actions. The decision was reversed in a hearing held in Atlanta Wednesday. They hope the decision will now help Barnes win a lawsuit he filed against the University.  “I think the board’s decision clearly indicated that they […]

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  • Valdosta State student sues after he’s expelled

    January 12, 2008

    Parodied administration online by Brandon Larrabee Athens Banner-Herald   A student expelled from Valdosta State University after posting an online parody that school officials found threatening filed a federal lawsuit Friday, saying the punishment violated his right to free speech. Hayden Barnes is suing Valdosta State President Ronald Zaccari, the University System Board of Regents and the university itself. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, where the University System of Georgia is based. “VSU’s concerted effort to silence and punish Hayden Barnes is an unconscionable attempt to violate his First Amendment […]

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  • Ga. student who protested plans for campus parking garage contesting removal

    October 26, 2007

    A Valdosta State University student who was removed from campus after the school’s president declared him a “clear and present danger” will take his appeal to Georgia’s Office of State Administrative Hearings, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said Wednesday in a press release. Following a public campaign against the construction of a new parking garage on campus, student T. Hayden Barnes received a letter in May from University President Ronald Zaccari notifying him of “administrative withdrawal” from the university. The letter claimed Barnes posed a “clear and present danger” to Zaccari and the campus and required Barnes to […]

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  • 2013 in Review: Threats from Washington, Victories in the States

    December 30, 2013

    As 2013 comes to a close, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) looks back on a year that was headlined by dire threats to free speech and student rights on campus.

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  • FIRE and Broad Coalition File Brief Defending Free Speech in Student ‘Facebook Collage’ Case

    December 17, 2013

    Late yesterday, 11 organizations joined the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in filing an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief in the case of Barnes v. Zaccari. The brief asks the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to reverse a federal district court’s September 2010 ruling dismissing former Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes’ First Amendment claim against former VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari. In spring 2007, Zaccari expelled Barnes for peacefully protesting Zaccari’s plan to construct two parking garages on campus, calling a collage posted by Barnes on his personal Facebook page a “threatening document” and labeling Barnes a “clear and present danger” […]

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  • ‘Augusta Chronicle’ on the ‘Defeat of Tyranny’ at Valdosta State

    March 12, 2013

    Over the weekend, the editorial staff of The Augusta Chronicle penned an excellent piece on the jury verdict delivered last month against former Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald Zaccari. In that verdict, a federal jury in Georgia found Zaccari personally liable in the amount of $50,000 for violating the due process rights of former VSU student Hayden Barnes—one of the many fascinating developments in this case that dates back to 2007. Zaccari’s complete disregard for Barnes’ due process rights as a student at a public university prompted the Chronicle‘s editorial staff to write:   Without so much as a […]

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  • FIRE’s Robert Shibley On Air with Vicki McKenna This Evening

    February 18, 2013

    FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley will discuss the recent decision in Barnes v. Zaccari on air with Vicki McKenna this evening from 5:35 to 5:48 p.m. EST. Tune in to hear Robert on WISN in Milwaukee and WIBA in Madison, or listen live online.

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  • Breaking: Federal Jury Finds College President Personally Liable in ‘Facebook Collage’ Case

    February 1, 2013

    by Greg Lukianoff The Huffington Post   Earlier today, a federal jury in Georgia found former Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald Zaccari personally liable to the tune of $50,000 for violating the due process rights of former student Hayden Barnes. Barnes was expelled from VSU in 2007 after posting a collage on Facebook mocking the university president’s plans for a parking garage. Barnes had protested the garage plans on the grounds that there were more environmentally friendly and cost effective ways to deal with the university’s congestion problem. In expelling him, Zaccari claimed that, because the collage referred to the parking […]

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  • Jury Finds Former College President Personally Liable for $50,000 in Victory for Student Rights

    February 1, 2013

    ATLANTA, February 1, 2013—A federal jury today found former Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald M. Zaccari personally liable for $50,000 for violating the due process rights of former student Hayden Barnes in the case of Barnes v. Zaccari. In May 2007, Zaccari expelled Barnes for peacefully protesting Zaccari’s plan to construct two parking garages on campus, calling a collage posted by Barnes on his personal Facebook page a “threatening document” and labeling Barnes a “clear and present danger” to VSU. Barnes first came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help in October 2007. “College administrators […]

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  • Suit against former VSU president in jury’s hands

    February 1, 2013

    by Quinten Plummer The Valdosta Daily Times VALDOSTA — Over five years have passed since Hayden Barnes learned of his expulsion from Valdosta State University by a letter slipped under his dorm-room door, and now, with closing arguments wrapped on Wednesday, the trial moves into its fifth day as jurors work to determine whether Dr. Ronald Zaccari, previous university president, was justified in his termination of Barnes. Barnes was administratively withdrawn from VSU during May of 2007, after engaging in a battle against Zaccari over the then-proposed parking decks between Oak Street and Sustella Avenue. Barnes had lobbied for more […]

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  • Barnes Verdict Expected Today

    February 1, 2013

    A verdict in Barnes v. Zaccari is expected today. The jury began deliberations yesterday afternoon. The Valdosta Daily Times (Ga.) has more from inside the courtroom proceedings, highlighting Bob Corn-Revere’s argument on behalf of former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes, who was expelled for peacefully protesting the planned construction of campus parking garages: [Former Valdosta State University President Ronald] Zaccari was looking for any route he could find to dismiss Barnes, according to Corn-Revere, although no one, including the university police chief, found any information about Barnes that would classify the junior transfer as a threat. “When Dr. Zaccari […]

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  • UPDATE: Hayden Barnes Trial Underway in Georgia; New Video with Attorney Bob Corn-Revere

    January 29, 2013

    UPDATE, 1-30-13: Today, FIRE is pleased to release a new video interview about Barnes’ case with noted First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine and Barnes’ lawyer. Nearly six years after he was expelled from Valdosta State University (VSU) for peacefully protesting the planned construction of parking garages on campus, former VSU student Hayden Barnes will finally be able to press the merits of his case in court. Yesterday, trial began in Barnes’s civil rights lawsuit against former VSU President Ronald Zaccari, the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia, and other VSU administrators. The trial […]

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  • Expelled Valdosta State Student Earns Early Win in State Court

    July 27, 2012

    As we reported here on The Torch back in June, former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes is now fighting his legal battle against the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia in state court—and the early returns are encouraging for student rights.   Here’s the backstory. Barnes originally included his breach of contract claim in the federal lawsuit he filed in January 2008 with the help of FIRE and attorneys Robert Corn-Revere and Cary Wiggins. In addition to the First Amendment, due process, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Rehabilitation Act claims brought against the named defendants (former […]

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  • Date Set For Barnes v. Zaccari Trial

    July 20, 2012

    Important news in Hayden Barnes’ federal civil rights lawsuit, the ongoing FIRE case involving the university president who expelled a student for a critical collage. On Wednesday, the trial judge granted former Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari’s motion to transfer the case to a different United States District Court in Georgia. Today, the new judge declared (PDF) that the case is ready for trial and set the case on the October 2012 trial calendar.   Just to remind you about the details: this is the case where former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes protested President Ronald Zaccari’s plans […]

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  • Victory Stands: Eleventh Circuit Denies Former Valdosta State President’s Appeal

    June 7, 2012

    In a victory for student rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has denied former Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari’s petition for rehearing en banc in the case of Barnes v. Zaccari.   A party may appeal an appellate court’s decision by requesting en banc review, which, if granted, means that all of the circuit’s judges will review the decision reached by the appellate panel of three judges. En banc review is governed by Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, which states that en banc review is only appropriate when (A) the […]

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  • Greg in ‘Huffington Post’ on Eleventh Circuit’s Important Message to University Administrators

    February 9, 2012

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff weighs in today at The Huffington Post on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit’s important ruling in Barnes v. Zaccari. As we highlighted in on our press release yesterday, the Eleventh Circuit’s unanimous decision affirms a lower court’s denial of qualified immunity to former Valdosta State University (VSU) president Ronald M. Zaccari for violating former VSU student Hayden Barnes’ due process rights. Greg observes the following about the significance of this ruling: The Eleventh Circuit’s ruling is a clear sign that university presidents and administrators that choose to brazenly violate student rights […]

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  • Eleventh Circuit to University Administrators: Respect Student Rights

    February 9, 2012

    In the nearly five years since I first began blogging about student rights here on The Huffington Post, I’ve written many times about the incredible case of former Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes, who was expelled from Georgia’s VSU in April 2007 for peacefully protesting the planned construction of a parking garage on campus. If that sounds crazy, that’s because it is crazy — and Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed, issuing an important ruling for student rights. In a unanimous opinion issued late Tuesday, the Eleventh Circuit found that former Valdosta State University president Ronald Zaccari may […]

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  • Eleventh Circuit Affirms Ruling against Former Valdosta State President in Victory for Student Rights

    February 8, 2012

    Here is today’s press release: ATLANTA, February 8, 2012—In a victory for student rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a unanimous decision late yesterday in the case of Barnes v. Zaccari, holding that former Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald M. Zaccari may be found personally liable for violating the due process rights of former VSU student T. Hayden Barnes. Barnes first came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help in October 2007. “This landmark ruling from the Eleventh Circuit leaves no doubt that university administrators who choose to ignore […]

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  • Eleventh Circuit Affirms Ruling against Former Valdosta State President in Victory for Student Rights

    February 8, 2012

    ATLANTA, February 8, 2012—In a victory for student rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a unanimous decision late yesterday in the case of Barnes v. Zaccari, holding that former Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald M. Zaccari may be found personally liable for violating the due process rights of former VSU student T. Hayden Barnes. Barnes first came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help in October 2007. “This landmark ruling from the Eleventh Circuit leaves no doubt that university administrators who choose to ignore the due process rights of […]

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  • Eleventh Circuit Hears Arguments in Major Student Rights Case, ‘Barnes v. Zaccari’

    November 17, 2011

    In a case that FIRE followers will remember dating back to 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit today will hear oral arguments in Barnes v. Zaccari, with important protections for students’ campus rights at stake. The case concerns Hayden Barnes’ long ordeal at Valdosta State University (VSU) in Georgia, which originated with the decision of Ronald Zaccari, then-President of VSU, to expel him without a shred of due process for publicly protesting Zaccari’s plan to build two parking garages on campus using $30 million of mandatory student fees. Barnes expressed his concerns (and proposed what […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: Victory at Valdosta State

    September 19, 2011

    Last September, FIRE celebrated a major victory when former Valdosta State University (VSU) student T. Hayden Barnes won a federal civil rights lawsuit against former VSU President Ronald Zaccari. Not only was the victory a vindication of Barnes’ rights, but it also represented a major step forward for the fight for freedom on campus. Barnes’ case began in the spring of 2007, when he publicly protested plans to spend $30 million of student fee money to build new parking garages on VSU’s campus. As a committed environmentalist, he believed that the parking garages would do little to alleviate traffic problems on […]

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  • FIRE Cases Figure Strongly in ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’ Article on Retaliation Against Faculty Speech

    August 3, 2011

    The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Peter Schmidt has an excellent article on the hair-trigger sensibilities of the college classroom, in which many professors have found themselves under fire for remarks seen as violent or threatening. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the free speech and academic freedom issues involved, several of the cases Schmidt cites in his piece are cases in which FIRE has been—or is currently—involved. Two of the cases Schmidt devotes significant coverage to in his article are cases with which FIRE has been intimately involved in recent months. The first, involving law professor Lawrence Connell of Widener University, concerns […]

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  • Hayden Barnes at the 2011 CFN Conference

    June 8, 2011

    FIRE is pleased to announce that at our 2011 Campus Freedom Network Conference, Hayden Barnes, a former Valdosta State University student and the subject of one of FIRE’s most infamous student rights cases, will be speaking about his experience. In 2007, Hayden was expelled from Valdosta State for peacefully protesting the use of student funds to build parking garages on campus. You can hear more about Hayden’s ordeal here:  The CFN Conference brings together committed students from across the country to learn from eminent First Amendment scholars and meet fellow advocates for free speech on campus. The 2011 CFN Conference […]

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  • Greg in ‘Huffington Post’ on What’s at Stake for Students’ Rights in Eleventh Circuit Case

    April 13, 2011

    In his newest article for The Huffington Post, Greg details the latest legal developments in Barnes v. Zaccari and reviews the impressive list of organizations who have joined FIRE in filing an amicus brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. For more on our coalition and the implications of the case, visit The Huffington Post.

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  • Joined by Broad Coalition, FIRE Files Brief in Support of Student Rights in ‘Barnes v. Zaccari’

    April 12, 2011

    On behalf of a broad coalition of 15 organizations concerned about student rights on public campuses, FIRE filed an amici curiae brief yesterday with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in the case of Barnes v. Zaccari. The brief asks the Eleventh Circuit to uphold a federal district court’s September 2010 ruling denying the defense of qualified immunity to former Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald M. Zaccari, arguing that public college administrators who violate the constitutional rights of students should be held liable for doing so. The brief, authored by FIRE, was jointly submitted to […]

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  • Adam Kissel on Threat Assessment Teams in ‘USA TODAY’

    January 14, 2011

    In USA TODAY, reporter Mary Beth Marklein reports on the threat to students’ free speech rights posed by “threat assessment teams” at colleges and universities. She reports that in the wake of the Arizona shooting, questions are now being raised about the teams’ “appropriateness and effectiveness.” Marklein portrays Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes’ struggle with free speech and due process (a case in which FIRE continues to be heavily involved) as an example of these teams’ hazards: Other critics say administrators may try to use threat assessment teams for their own purposes. In a case involving a student dismissed […]

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  • Hayden Barnes’ Victory in Federal Court, Currently on Appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, is a Major Story to Follow in 2011

    December 23, 2010

    Back in September, we rejoiced at the news that former Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes had won a compelling victory in federal court in his lawsuit against former VSU president Ronald Zaccari and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Barnes’ case, which FIRE has been involved in since its genesis in 2007, is near and dear to many hearts at FIRE. It is a sterling example of what can go wrong in the often speech-restrictive environment that is higher education, and of the lengths to which America’s colleges will go to stifle student expression […]

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  • Valdosta State Lawsuit Update: Hayden Barnes’ Qualified Immunity Victory Headed to Eleventh Circuit on Appeal

    November 2, 2010

    Back in September, FIRE celebrated a monumental (and long-awaited) victory when a federal district court judge in Georgia ruled that former Valdosta State University (VSU) president Ronald Zaccari and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia had violated the due process rights of former VSU student Hayden Barnes by expelling him from school without a hearing after Barnes had engaged in peaceful protest both on campus and online. In addition to vindicating his rights, the ruling capped a three-year ordeal for Barnes, a decorated paramedic who finished his undergraduate studies at Kennesaw State University and now attends […]

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  • In ‘Huffington Post,’ FIRE President Explains Importance of Valdosta State Win

    September 23, 2010

    In a new blog entry for The Huffington Post, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff discusses this month’s federal district court victory for former Valdosta State University student T. Hayden Barnes. Greg assesses the importance of the case for student rights and explains why the court’s ruling should be a wake-up call for university administrators who violate the constitutional rights of students. Noting that the decision “has already sent shockwaves through the higher education community,” Greg writes: But most importantly, Barnes v. Zaccari serves as a warning to administrators that might violate the basic rights of their students that they can be […]

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  • Motion for Reconsideration in Valdosta State Case Seeks Recognition of First Amendment, Susbtantive Due Process Violations

    September 15, 2010

    A major federal court victory earlier this month vindicated the procedural due process rights of former Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes, but not his First Amendment or substantive due process rights. A motion for reconsideration filed last Friday by Barnes’ attorneys aims to change that. More than three years ago, Barnes was expelled from VSU for peacefully protesting the university’s construction of a parking garage. Former VSU President Ronald Zaccari labeled Barnes a “clear and present danger” and had him “administratively withdrawn” from VSU for posting a collage on Facebook to protest the environmental impact of the planned […]

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  • Media Reactions Regarding Benchmark Student Speech Victory Continue

    September 14, 2010

    Former Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes’ federal court victory has continued to perk up media moguls’ ears. As we’ve reported, Barnes’ First Amendment and due process rights were violated when his peaceful protest against former VSU president Ronald Zaccari’s plan to spend $30 million of student fee money on new parking garages got him kicked out of school in 2007. Judge Charles A. Pannell Jr.’s Sept. 3 order held Zaccari personally liable for damages against Barnes, and the media aren’t wary of calling him out for it. Since Barnes’ victory, Torch and Valdosta Daily Times readers know Zaccari […]

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  • Zaccari Statement on Federal Court Loss Ignores the Facts and Defies Rationality

    September 13, 2010

    Whatever magical wonder drug has former Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald Zaccari feeling so good about the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia’s ruling on his unconstitutional expulsion of former VSU student Hayden Barnes, I want it. Then I too will be able to gleefully ignore the less pleasant realities of my existence. If no such thing exists, then perhaps Zaccari should pay a visit to his local optometrist, for his reading of Judge Charles A. Pannell Jr.’s opinion so distorts the reality and gravity of his loss in court as to defy logic. Zaccari’s statement […]

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  • Let Valdosta State Ruling Be a Warning to University Administrators: Qualified Immunity Will Not Bail You Out

    September 10, 2010

    FIRE has been warning college presidents and administrators for some time that when they violate the expressive rights and due process rights of students at public universities, they do more than defy the dictates of the Constitution (and, for that matter, abandon their moral duties as leaders of our nation’s institutions of higher education). We have warned that administrators who violate students’ First Amendment and due process rights precariously ignore, at their own risk, controlling Supreme Court decisions and other longstanding federal court precedents on these matters. That’s because administrators at public colleges and universities, as public officials performing discretionary […]

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  • Press and Academic Community React to Federal Court Victory in Georgia

    September 8, 2010

    News of the federal court victory for former Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes is making its way through the media today. The prospect of a university administrator being held personally liable for damages for violating clearly established law regarding student rights must be that much scarier, now that it has happened to former VSU president Ronald Zaccari. As Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr.’s order last Friday explained, Zaccari is personally liable for damages against Barnes after ignoring the advice of both VSU’s attorneys and VSU’s written policies and expelling Barnes without even the most minimum elements of due process. […]

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  • Victory in Federal Court for Student Expelled for Peaceful Protest; University President Held Personally Responsible for Rights Violation

    September 7, 2010

    More than three years after being expelled from Valdosta State University (VSU) for engaging in peaceful protest, former VSU student T. Hayden Barnes has won his federal civil rights lawsuit against former VSU President Ronald Zaccari. In an opinion issued late Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia found that because Zaccari expelled Barnes without notice or a hearing, Zaccari violated Barnes’ constitutional right to due process as well as the contract created between VSU and Barnes by the student handbook. The court also found that because Zaccari ignored “clearly established” law in punishing Barnes, Zaccari […]

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  • Victory in Federal Court for Student Expelled for Peaceful Protest; University President Held Personally Responsible for Rights Violation

    September 7, 2010

    VALDOSTA, Ga., September 7, 2010—More than three years after being expelled from Valdosta State University (VSU) for engaging in peaceful protest, former VSU student T. Hayden Barnes has won his federal civil rights lawsuit against former VSU President Ronald Zaccari. In an opinion issued late Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia found that because Zaccari expelled Barnes without notice or a hearing, Zaccari violated Barnes’ constitutional right to due process as well as the contract created between VSU and Barnes by the student handbook. The court also found that because Zaccari ignored “clearly established” law […]

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  • Changes in Leadership Give Red Alert Schools Golden Opportunity to Restore Free Speech

    May 19, 2010

    The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Richard F. Celeste will step down as President of Colorado College at the end of the next academic year. This latest announcement means that four of the six schools on FIRE’s Red Alert list will undergo changes in leadership in the next year. Bucknell University President Brian C. Mitchell announced last year his intention to retire from Bucknell’s presidency, exiting Bucknell on June 30; Lawrence S. Bacow has announced his intention to leave Tufts University in June 2011; and embattled Brandeis University President Jehuda Reinharz plans to exit his post by then as […]

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  • Brief in Valdosta State Lawsuit Argues Why Administrators Should Be Personally Liable for Rights Violations

    April 29, 2010

    In my previous post on the reply brief filed by former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes’ attorneys in support of their motion for summary judgment, I examined the brief’s discussion of the violation of Hayden’s First Amendment rights. While there is much more to discuss as well, this post discusses the brief’s argument regarding why each defendant should be denied qualified immunity and found personally liable for their treatment of Hayden. The brief argues: Apart from Zaccari, other defendants offer essentially a Nuremberg defense—that they were “just following orders.” However, each of the defendants participated in the deliberations that […]

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  • Damning Reply Brief Filed with Federal District Court in Hayden Barnes’ Case

    April 29, 2010

    Hayden Barnes’ years-long battle with Valdosta State University (VSU) may be entering its final phase. Earlier this month, Barnes’ attorneys filed their reply brief in support of their motion for summary judgment with District Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division. It’s been a long road for Hayden, who was expelled in 2007 for posting a collage on Facebook critical of former VSU President Ronald Zaccari’s plan to construct two parking garages on campus with millions of dollars in student fees. FIRE supporters will no doubt remember the […]

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  • Greg in ‘Huffington Post’ on the Campus Culture Wars

    April 22, 2009

    In his latest column for The Huffington Post, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff reflects on the campus culture wars with reference to two of our most famous cases: Hayden Barnes’ expulsion for a collage at Valdosta State University and the University of Delaware‘s former Residence Life program. Discussing the cases side by side, Greg demonstrates how censorship is usually engaged in by “someone who thinks they are, to a greater or lesser degree, saving the world, their country, or humanity’s eternal soul.” As Greg points out, these censors are missing the fundamental point: This should be obvious, but in the culture […]

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  • Rights in the News: FIRE Issues Get the Lou Dobbs Treatment

    March 13, 2009

    As Will wrote earlier in the week, FIRE has seen far too many instances of students’ First Amendment rights being thrown out the window when used to support Second Amendment rights. FIRE has been all over the news concerning the most recent instance of this, in which a student at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) was reported to the police by his professor and subjected to an interrogation on the basis of a class presentation he had given in favor of concealed carry rights on campus. Building on a FoxNews.com front-page story (tipped this week in an editorial on the […]

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  • Obama: Silencers of Dissent Are on the Wrong Side of History

    January 20, 2009

    Today we have asked President Obama to help fight speech codes on college campuses, which not only violate the rights of millions of college students but also teach them that censorship is more efficacious and desirable than tolerance of each person’s views, no matter how profoundly antithetical to one’s own. In this vein, one line from President Obama’s inaugural address is of particular note: To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history[.] Of course, the President was not referring to administrators of U.S. […]

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  • FIRE Pens Open Letter to President Obama

    January 20, 2009

    This Inauguration Day, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has sent President Barack Obama an open letter requesting that, as a scholar of constitutional law and the leader of the nation’s executive branch, he and his administration join the fight against college and university speech codes that are infringing on the rights of millions of our nation’s college students. As Greg says in today’s press release: Millions of American students are being taught that colleges have the power to censor and punish speech that the Bill of Rights protects … Failing to educate an entire generation about our constitutional […]

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  • FIRE in Action: Valdosta State University

    January 19, 2009

    This short film highlights FIRE’s fight against Valdosta State University’s (VSU’s) unconstitutional free speech zone policy and chronicles FIRE’s victory on behalf of VSU student T. Hayden Barnes, who was expelled for engaging in a peaceful protest. Featuring on-the-scene interviews with Barnes; his attorney, noted First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere; and FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, this video illustrates the impact of FIRE’s work and explains why VSU remains a priority in FIRE’s fight for student rights on campus.

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  • 2008 Highlights: FIRE Places Full-Page Ad in ‘U.S. News & World Report’ Calling Out ‘Red Alert’ Schools

    December 31, 2008

    While FIRE works on cases from hundreds of schools in a given year, we have a special list for those schools that have shown unique intransigence in the face of criticism from FIRE for abusing student and faculty rights. We call that special list our Red Alert list, and right now five schools have earned a spot among the “worst of the worst.”  This summer, we decided to step up our campaign for reform at Red Alert schools by running a full-page ad in the 2009 edition of U.S. News & World Report‘s all-important America’s Best Colleges issue, right next […]

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  • Questions Surround Proposed ‘Free Speech Zone’ at Northeastern Illinois University

    December 19, 2008

    Deanna Isaacs of the Chicago Reader reports troubling developments at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), a public university in Chicago. According to Isaacs, NEIU President Sharon K. Hahs has proposed instituting an unconstitutional free speech zone on the NEIU campus, with prior approval requirements that put an impermissible onus on students and faculty members seeking to exercise their constitutional rights of assembly and demonstration. FIRE has not yet seen Hahs’ proposed policy, but if Isaacs’ description is accurate the implications are breathtaking: Proposed by university president Sharon K. Hahs, the Policy Concerning Demonstrations on Campus, Distribution and Display of Visual Communications […]

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  • Stop Invoking Virginia Tech to Punish Protected Speech

    November 24, 2008

    Of particular note in the court order in Barnes v. Zaccari, the federal civil rights lawsuit filed after former Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes was expelled for posting a collage on Facebook.com protesting the construction of new parking facilities at VSU, is this excerpt: For purposes of the motion to dismiss, the court determines that the inclusion of the word “memorial” by its mere utterance in a photo collage that was posted on an internet website simply cannot be rationally construed as likely to incite immediate violence, even in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy that the […]

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  • Good News from Georgia: Federal District Court Issues Important First Order in Valdosta State Lawsuit

    November 21, 2008

    On Wednesday, District Court Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. issued his first order in the federal civil rights lawsuit filed by former Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes in January. In a promising development for Barnes—and, more generally, for free speech on campuses across the country—Judge Pannell’s order upheld the core of Barnes’ civil claims against recently retired VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari and other members of his administration. Loyal Torch readers will remember Barnes’ incredible ordeal at Valdosta State University—indeed, FIRE prepared a short film highlighting the school’s unconstitutional behavior in March—but for those who don’t, here’s a […]

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  • Greg in ‘Huffington Post’ on Valdosta State and the Importance of Free Speech on Campus

    September 26, 2008

    Check out FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s Huffington Post entry today in which he praises Valdosta State University for the long-awaited dismantling of their free speech zone. Greg points out both how important it is that Valdosta is heading in the right direction, and why free speech on campus is so crucial to our democracy as whole. As Greg notes in the article: One of the most worrisome questions I receive is, “Why is censorship on campus important?” Now I understand that in light of fighting two wars and staring down the looming collapse of our economy, campus censorship might strike […]

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  • Valdosta State U Victory Discussed in ‘FIREside Chats’ Episode

    September 22, 2008

    Last week, FIRE was thrilled to announce that after months of pressure, Valdosta State University (VSU) revoked its unconstitutional free speech zone policy and restored free expression to VSU’s campus. In today’s episode of FIRE’s podcasting series, FIREside Chats, Will Creeley and Robert Shibley discuss the events that led to this victory and the removal of VSU from FIRE’s Red Alert list. The four schools that remain on this list should take a lesson from VSU, give back the essential rights they have abridged, and enjoy the restoration of their good names. Listen to the entire episode of FIREside Chats, […]

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  • Weekly Media Round-up: Two Major Free Speech Victories Start the Year on a High Note

    September 19, 2008

    FIRE declared a pair of major victories for free speech this week in what we hope will set the tone for our efforts on campus during the 2008–2009 academic year. Valdosta State University (VSU), under the leadership of new president Patrick Schloss, revoked its unconstitutional free speech zone policy and made the VSU campus much more open to free expression. Schloss’ decision brings an end to a nearly year-long effort by FIRE to bring changes to VSU’s policy, and results in the removal of Valdosta State from FIRE’s Red Alert list. As Luke noted earlier this week, VSU’s student newspaper […]

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  • VSU Student Newspaper Notes University’s Removal from Red Alert List

    September 18, 2008

    The Spectator, Valdosta State University’s (VSU’s) student newspaper, ran an article yesterday about FIRE’s victory at VSU after VSU’s new president, Patrick Schloss, replaced the university’s “Free Expression Area” policy with a “General Public Forum Venue” policy. The old policy was awarded the dubious distinction of FIRE’s March 2008 Speech Code of the Month for, on its face, relegating speech to a tiny stage on the entire VSU campus for only two hours on weekdays. VSU’s free speech zone came to FIRE’s attention after former VSU president Ronald Zaccari expelled student Hayden Barnes for posting a collage on Facebook.com criticizing […]

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  • Free Speech Policy

    September 18, 2008

    A watchdog group is happy now that a local university has changed its free speech policy. Eyewitness News reporter Kim Carapucci has more. Valdosta State University considers itself a pretty liberal school. VSU President Patrick Schloss: “We believe strongly in free speech and open access.”   But over the past year, it’s been accused of violating students’ rights to free speech. In March of 2007, a student was kicked of the school when he spoke out against a proposed parking garage on campus. The school’s former policy said if a person wanted to express their opinions on campus, they had […]

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  • Valdosta State Comes Off FIRE’s Red Alert List

    September 17, 2008

    What a difference a change in leadership makes! As those who follow FIRE—as well as the millions of people who saw our full-page advertisement in the most recent U.S. News & World Report “America’s Best Colleges” issue—already know, Valdosta State University has been one of the leading free speech villains among America’s campuses for approximately the last year, ever since former president Ronald Zaccari personally expelled a student for posting a collage on Facebook.com. Further investigation turned up the fact that Valdosta State had one of the country’s worst “free speech zones”—a policy that limited free speech on campus to […]

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  • Victory for Free Speech at Valdosta State University

    September 17, 2008

    PHILADELPHIA, September 17, 2008—In a welcome reversal, Valdosta State University (VSU) has revoked its unconstitutional free speech zone policy, restoring free expression to the vast majority of VSU’s campus. Newly installed VSU President Patrick J. Schloss announced the new policy in a letter to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The change comes in response to months of pressure from FIRE and removes VSU from FIRE’s Red Alert list, a distinction reserved for institutions demonstrating a severe and ongoing disregard for the fundamental rights of students or faculty members. “President Schloss has distinguished himself from his predecessor by […]

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  • Policy Changed: VSU reveals new free expression rule; FIRE backs off

    September 17, 2008

    VSU President Dr. Patrick Schloss signed a new General Public Forum Venue policy on Sept. 11, changing VSU’s free expression on campus. In a letter to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Schloss announced that a new General Public Forum Venue policy replaced the old Free Expression Area policy. The new policy dramatically increases the amount of time allowed for use of the school’s free speech expression area on campus for public debate. In response, FIRE has taken VSU off of their “Red Alert” list of schools who disregard free speech and expression. “President Schloss has distinguished himself […]

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  • Back to School: Remember FIRE’s Red Alert List

    September 9, 2008

    Students going back to school should be aware of the institutions that demonstrate a blatant disregard for their students’ rights. FIRE’s Red Alert list, recently featured in a full-page ad in the 2009 “America’s Best Colleges” edition of U.S. News and World Report, is a list of the “worst of the worst” when it comes to respect for students’ rights. These institutions egregiously violated their students’ rights and, despite having been informed of their wrongdoing, still refuse to admit and redress the harm they have caused. Below is a list of the Red Alert schools, what they did to get […]

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  • Sierra Club Fails Valdosta State for Free Speech Zone

    September 3, 2008

    The Sierra Club has released its second annual list of “cool schools” that promote environmental initiatives on their campuses. As a counterpoint, the Sierra Club also includes a list of schools that conspicuously fail to encourage—or even inhibit—environmental initiatives. And, interestingly enough, who should we find on that latter list but one of FIRE’s Red Alert schools, the infamous Valdosta State University? As regular Torch readers will no doubt recall, Valdosta State first came to FIRE’s attention when former VSU President Ronald Zaccari expelled student Hayden Barnes for posting a collage on Facebook.com protesting Zaccari’s plans to build a parking […]

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  • How Can Valdosta State University Get off FIRE’s Red Alert List?

    August 27, 2008

    Following the debut of FIRE’s full-page ad in U.S. News & World Report‘s “America’s Best Colleges” issue, released nationwide this week, we thought it would be appropriate to explain exactly how each of our five Red Alert schools can rid themselves of the unfortunate distinction of being the worst of the worst when it comes to individual rights on campus. On Tuesday, Adam described the steps Colorado College and Brandeis University need to take to restore their good names. Today, I’ll discuss how Georgia’s Valdosta State University can do the same. First, it’s important to explain how Valdosta State—a public […]

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  • FIRE Exposes Unrepentant Abusers of Liberty in ‘U.S. News’ College Rankings Issue

    August 25, 2008

    PHILADELPHIA, August 25, 2008—The 2009 edition of U.S. News and World Report‘s America’s Best Colleges issue, released today, includes a full-page advertisement from FIRE highlighting the five colleges and universities that have earned FIRE’s Red Alert distinction for being the “worst of the worst” when it comes to liberty on campus. Students should think twice before choosing to attend Red Alert schools, which include Brandeis University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Tufts University, and Valdosta State University. “Every year, millions of students and parents turn to U.S. News and World Report to see the latest college rankings,” said FIRE President […]

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  • At Valdosta State, New Leadership or More of the Same?

    August 21, 2008

    As dedicated Torch readers will remember, Ronald Zaccari, Valdosta State University’s former President, retired early this summer after a disastrous last year in office during which he expelled former VSU student Hayden Barnes for engaging in protected political expression. Indeed, Zaccari left VSU with his legacy in tatters, having been named one of our nation’s “most egregious and ridiculous censors” by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and remains the subject of a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Barnes. So it was with real hope that FIRE wrote to VSU Vice President for Academic Affairs […]

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  • For Olympic Free Speech Zones, China Takes Page From American Universities

    July 24, 2008

    As the start of the Beijing Games draws near―and with questions remaining about how Communist Party officials will address public dissent and protest―I was struck by this paragraph from an article in The New York Times this morning: The Chinese government will permit public protests inside three designated city parks during next month’s Olympic Games, but demonstrators must first obtain permits from the local police and also abide by Chinese laws that usually make it nearly impossible to legally picket over politically charged issues. Designating special protest zones? Requiring permits for expressive activity? Reviewing the content of that expressive activity […]

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  • Pressed Again on Free Speech Zone, Valdosta State Finally Responds

    July 3, 2008

    It’s taken nearly eight months, but FIRE has finally received a response from Valdosta State University (VSU) regarding its blatantly unconstitutional free speech zone. We first wrote (now former) VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari regarding his university’s “Free Expression Area” policy in November of last year. Our letter detailed the myriad problems with the school’s policy, which restricts the free expression of VSU’s 11,000 students to an impossibly small stage for just two hours per day, as well as requiring reservations up to 48 hours in advance. Specifically, we wrote: First, VSU’s requirement of advanced reservations for all “[p]ersons wishing […]

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  • Legacy in Tatters, Embattled VSU President Retires

    June 30, 2008

    Valdosta State University President Ronald M. Zaccari retires today, leaving behind an embarrassing legacy of contempt for his students’ constitutional rights to freedom of speech and due process. Yes, the bell tolls today for Ron Zaccari’s disastrously unconstitutional tenure as VSU’s President―but not the Liberty Bell. (That’s an old FIRE chestnut, by the way, and we’re only too happy to trot it out again on special occasions like this.) It’s hard to overstate precisely how contemptuous Zaccari has been of the constitutional liberties of VSU students during his presidency. While regular Torch readers will likely be very familiar with the […]

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  • When Schools Punish Creative Work

    May 20, 2008

    As Samantha points out this morning, today’s Wall Street Journal features an excellent article by Elizabeth Bernstein on schools that punish students for their creative work—sometimes with good intentions, when there is a real chance that the work signifies that someone is dangerous—and sometimes vindictively, such as in the case of student T. Hayden Barnes at Valdosta State University. Barnes, an environmentalist who was protesting against new parking garages, was expelled after he published an innocent collage (see for yourself) on Facebook.com that Valdosta’s president disingenuously chose to interpret as a threat to his life. The WSJ piece explains that […]

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  • Schools struggle with dark writings

    May 20, 2008

    When Steven Barber turned in a short story this semester for his creative-writing class at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, his instructor was alarmed. The 23-year-old student had produced an imagined account of someone on the edge of a violent breakdown, touching on suicide and murder. “It had to be acted on immediately,” says Christopher Scalia, the instructor. He alerted administrators, who reacted swiftly, searching Mr. Barber’s dorm room and car. Upon discovering three guns, they had him committed to a psychiatric institution for a weekend. Then they expelled him. Yet the psychiatrists who evaluated Mr. Barber during […]

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  • Greg Lukianoff on ‘Threatening’ Speech in ‘The Wall Street Journal’

    May 20, 2008

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff is quoted in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal in an article about the challenges universities face distinguishing true threats from protected expression. Greg explains that the problem on campus is that “Right now, if a university administrator claims that someone is a threat, even if that threat is virtually unsupportable and completely unreasonable, they have carte blanche to do what they want.” This is precisely what happened to T. Hayden Barnes at Valdosta State University, whose story is featured in the article. For even more on Valdosta State, see FIRE’s short film highlighting both […]

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  • VSU Lawsuit Update: Barnes Files Motion for Summary Judgment

    May 12, 2008

    Former Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes’s federal lawsuit against VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari and other university officials continues apace. Zaccari expelled Barnes from VSU for engaging in peaceful political protest in May of 2007. In the lawsuit, Barnes alleges that his expulsion violated his First Amendment right to free expression, among other grievances. Last week, Barnes’s legal team, which includes eminent First Amendment attorney and FIRE Legal Network member Robert Corn-Revere, filed a memorandum in support of a motion for partial summary judgment in Barnes’s favor. It’s an excellent read for anyone following Barnes’s shocking case, as […]

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  • An Update on Valdosta State University Featured in New Podcast

    May 5, 2008

    Our latest installation of FIREside Chats features an interview with Hayden Barnes, the student at Valdosta State University (VSU) who was expelled for publicly protesting the school’s decision to construct two new parking garages on campus. Hayden is currently embattled in a lawsuit against the university, VSU President Ronald Zaccari, and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. In today’s podcast, FIRE’s Media Director Emily Guidry and Hayden discuss the school’s arguments against him, his legal team’s response, how the ordeal has affected him personally and how he hopes his case can help other students around the […]

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  • University System of Georgia Conducting Student Survey on Free Speech Zones

    April 18, 2008

    The University System of Georgia is surveying students to find out what they think about various expression-related issues on the system’s campuses, including free speech zones. The University System of Georgia is currently home to one of the worst free speech zone policies on record—so bad, in fact, that FIRE named Valdosta State University‘s free speech zone our March 2008 Speech Code of the Month. That policy designates just one small stage as the sole “free expression area” for the university’s 11,000 students; limits use of the stage to just 2 hours a day; and requires 48 hours advanced notice […]

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  • “Muzzle Tov” to Brandeis and Valdosta State from Greg

    April 11, 2008

    In his latest Huffington Post blog, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff recaps the 2008 Jefferson Muzzle awards, bringing special attention to with “winners” at Brandeis University and Valdosta State University. He also puts in an early nomination for 2009′s Muzzles: Finally, while I know it’s only April, I already have two nominations for next year’s Jefferson Muzzles. First, I would like to nominate Colorado College, where administrators have used tragic school shootings of recent years as justification for finding two students guilty of “violence” for posting a flyer making fun of another flyer. I ask readers once again to compare these […]

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  • Associated Press, Harvey Silverglate and Blogosphere Cover the Jefferson Muzzles

    April 10, 2008

    After Tuesday’s announcement of the 2008 Jefferson Muzzles awarded by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, the media and blogosphere have lit up with coverage of the “honors” given to “the country’s most egregious and ridiculous censors”. An article by the Associated Press mentioned the FIRE cases at Brandeis University and Valdosta State University: Rounding out the list were Brandeis University administrators for declaring a professor guilty of harassment and placing a monitor in his classroom after he explained to his class that Mexican migrant workers are sometimes pejoratively called “wetbacks;” Valdosta State (Ga.) University President […]

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  • Episode 104: FIRE’s Case at Valdosta State University

    March 10, 2008

    The fourth installment of our FIREside Chats podcast series is now available on the multimedia page. In this episode, Emily Guidry, FIRE’s Media Director, and Samantha Harris, FIRE’s Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, discuss Hayden Barnes’s case at Valdosta State University and the school’s unconstitutional speech zone, both of which are also the focus of our latest video documentary.

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  • FIRE in Action: Valdosta State University

    March 3, 2008

    This afternoon, we at FIRE are extremely pleased to present to you the following short film, an in-depth exploration of FIRE’s ongoing fight against Valdosta State University (VSU). If you’ve visited FIRE’s website in the past five months, chances are that you’re already familiar with the case of former VSU student T. Hayden Barnes, expelled from his public university for peacefully protesting the construction of a $30 million dollar parking garage on campus. Frankly, it’s a pretty hard case to forget; there’s a reason that we’ve named VSU as just one of four schools on our Red Alert list. But […]

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  • FIRE Challenges Valdosta State University’s Free Speech Zone in New Video

    March 3, 2008

    VALDOSTA, Ga., March 3, 2008—In response to Valdosta State University’s (VSU’s) unconstitutional free speech zone policy, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released a short film today explaining VSU’s continued disregard for its students’ rights and chronicling FIRE’s recent victory on behalf of a VSU student expelled for engaging in a peaceful protest. “VSU has more than 11,000 students, yet its policy limits free speech to just one percent of campus. To make matters worse, students may only use the free speech zone for two hours a day, and have to reserve it two full days in advance. […]

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  • Video of Hayden Barnes and Valdosta State on FOX News

    February 29, 2008

    Those who have been following the outrageous treatment of Hayden Barnes by Valdosta State University in Georgia will not be surprised to see that his story has hit the national news. Yesterday evening, in a full-length segment on FOX News’s Special Report with Brit Hume, Hayden was interviewed about his experience—after all, being kicked out of school for encouraging environmental awareness in an online collage is still a pretty unusual event (and let’s hope it stays that way!). The report does a great job of covering the events as well as the issues in the case, and the video can […]

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  • Media Take Note of Valdosta Victory

    January 18, 2008

    Yesterday, FIRE announced that the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia decided at long last to acknowledge the First Amendment and reverse T. Hayden Barnes’s expulsion from Valdosta State University (VSU). Today, both Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education cover the long-overdue vindication of Barnes’s rights. The Chronicle article (subscription required) includes an extensive discussion of Barnes’s ongoing lawsuit against VSU. Regarding the Board of Regents’ reversal, Barnes told the Chronicle: It certainly would appear to most people, including me, that this is some admission of wrongdoing…they can either enter negotiations toward a reasonable […]

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  • Georgia Regents reverse student’s expulsion from Valdosta State U.

    January 18, 2008

    The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has reversed a decision by the president of one of its campuses to expel a student who had protested plans to build parking garages there. The student, T. Hayden Barnes, who had just finished his sophomore year at Valdosta State University when he was expelled last spring, filed a federal lawsuit against the university last week. Mr. Barnes learned that he had been “administratively withdrawn” from Valdosta State last May in a letter from the institution’s president that was slipped under the door of his dormitory room.   To read […]

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  • Victory at Valdosta State: Georgia Board of Regents Finally Reverses Expulsion

    January 17, 2008

    FIRE is pleased to announce today that the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has finally reversed the expulsion of Valdosta State University (VSU) student T. Hayden Barnes. The Board’s decision provides a welcome signal that the Board recognizes and respects the legal authority of the First Amendment on public university campuses throughout the state. And it only took them six months. That’s right: it took the Board of Regents six long months to decide that yes, the First Amendment still governs student expression at public universities like VSU. Back in August of 2007, when they first […]

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  • Victory for Free Speech at Valdosta State University

    January 17, 2008

    ATLANTA, January 17, 2008—In a meeting yesterday, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia reversed a ruling against Valdosta State University (VSU) student T. Hayden Barnes, who was expelled in May 2007 after using Facebook.com and other methods to publicly protest the school’s decision to construct two new parking garages on campus. Barnes—who filed a federal lawsuit last week against VSU alleging constitutional violations—was informed by his lawyer, noted First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere, that the Board has reversed his expulsion. “FIRE commends the Board of Regents for beginning to right the horrendous wrong committed against Hayden […]

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  • Expulsion for protest unfair

    January 17, 2008

    What happens when a college student peacefully criticizes the actions of his university’s administration? At Valdosta State University, new details are emerging in an incident that appears to offer a disturbing answer to that question. After reading about this incident in numerous media sources, I examined publicly available documents to try to uncover an answer. However, what I found only exacerbated my concerns. In what should be of interest to all University System of Georgia students who value their First Amendment rights, this case reveals major issues with how far freedom of speech extends on university campuses. The incident began […]

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  • Expulsion reversed

    January 17, 2008

    An ongoing battle between the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes, who was expelled in May 2007 after using pictures on Facebook.com to protest the construction of two parking decks on campus, ended Wednesday after the Board reversed the expulsion. The reversal comes one week after Barnes, who was “administratively withdrawn” from VSU after President Ronald Zaccari deemed him a “clear and present danger,” filed a federal lawsuit against the university alleging constitutional violations. Barnes was recently notified of the reversal by his lawyer. “FIRE (Foundation of Individual Rights in […]

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  • New Facebook Monitoring Software Raises Troubling Questions

    January 14, 2008

    The Chronicle of Higher Education reports today (subscription required) on legal questions raised by new software designed to monitor students’ activity on popular social networking websites like Facebook.com and Myspace.com. The program, called YouDiligence, was developed by MVP Sports Media Training and is targeted towards college athletic departments concerned about the online activities of their student-athletes. MVP’s promotional materials describe YouDiligence as “the first product designed to help college athletic departments monitor the potentially damaging Web postings by their student-athletes”: Do you know what your student-athletes are posting online? That is a question that is leaving more and more college […]

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  • Valdosta State Case Gets More Attention

    January 14, 2008

    The thoroughly unconstitutional expulsion of T. Hayden Barnes from Valdosta State University—mainly for his postings on Facebook.com protesting against new parking facilities on campus—has been getting some new attention since Barnes filed a lawsuit against the university. The story was picked up by the Courthouse News Service and by WALB of Albany, GA, on Thursday, these blogs on Friday, and the Athens Banner-Herald on Saturday. The story also saw more blog attention over the weekend, briefly on Slashdot and at length on Mashable by Paul Glazowski. Glazowski writes: Such stories of controversy involving social networking sites are abundant—and will only […]

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  • ‘Inside Higher Ed’ Covers Valdosta Suit

    January 11, 2008

    Inside Higher Ed has a comprehensive article today about Hayden Barnes’s federal lawsuit against Valdosta State University. The article does a good job of capturing the degree of paranoia that was necessary for university officials to seriously entertain the notion that Barnes posed a “clear and present danger”: As additional evidence of the threat posed by Barnes, the document referred to a link he posted to his Facebook profile whose accompanying graphic read: “Shoot it. Upload it. Get famous. Project Spotlight is searching for the next big thing. Are you it?” It doesn’t mention that Project Spotlight was an online […]

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  • Former VSU student sues University

    January 11, 2008

    A former student from Valdosta State University has filed a federal lawsuit against the school and it’s president, Ronald Zaccari. Hayden Barnes filed the lawsuit on Wednesday. He says he feels the University violated his first and fourteenth amendment rights when they expelled him for voicing his opinion about building two new 30 million dollar parking decks on campus. Zaccari took that opinion as a threat. The lawsuit comes just a week before the Board of Regents is set to meet and determine if they will settle Barnes’ appeal of the expulsion in or out of court. That decision could determine the […]

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  • Maybe he shouldn’t have spoken his mind

    January 11, 2008

    T. Hayden Barnes opposed his university’s plan to build two large parking garages with $30 million from students’ mandatory fees. So last spring, he did what any student activist would do: He posted fliers criticizing the plan, wrote mass e-mails to students, sent letters to administrators and wrote a letter to the editor of the campus newspaper. While that kind of campaign might be enough to annoy university officials, Barnes never thought it would get him expelled. Rather than ignore him or set up a meeting with concerned students, Valdosta State University, in Georgia, informed Barnes, then a sophomore, that […]

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  • Student Files Federal Lawsuit Against Valdosta State University After Expulsion for Peaceful Protest

    January 10, 2008

    VALDOSTA, Ga., January 10, 2008—Expelled Valdosta State University (VSU) student T. Hayden Barnes has filed a lawsuit against the university, VSU President Ronald Zaccari, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and other VSU administrators after being punished for publicly protesting the school’s decision to construct two new parking garages on campus. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in cooperation with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and eminent First Amendment attorney and FIRE Legal Network member Robert Corn-Revere. “VSU’s concerted effort to silence and punish […]

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  • Wrongfully Expelled Student to Valdosta State: See You in Court

    January 10, 2008

    As announced in FIRE’s press release this morning, expelled Valdosta State University (VSU) student T. Hayden Barnes has filed a federal lawsuit against VSU, VSU President Ronald Zaccari, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and several VSU administrators. The complaint, filed late yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in cooperation with noted First Amendment attorney and FIRE Legal Network member Robert Corn-Revere, alleges that the defendants conspired to expel Barnes using the harmless cut-and-paste collage Barnes posted to Facebook.com as pretext, despite the fact that the collage clearly constitutes protected […]

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  • Ga. college student expelled after criticizing president’s plan files suit

    January 10, 2008

    A student who was expelled after repeatedly criticizing a plan championed by the university president for a new parking garage filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, alleging that school officials violated his rights by expelling him on a trumped-up charge that he was a danger to the campus. T. Hayden Barnes, then a Valdosta State University sophomore, began his campaign against the parking garage plan in response to a March article in the Valdosta State student newspaper, The Spectator. Barnes, an environmental activist, posted fliers around campus advocating alternatives. He also sent e-mails to fellow students and university officials, including President […]

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  • Stand Up for the First Amendment: Let the Georgia Board of Regents Know the Constitution Still Counts

    January 7, 2008

    Since his shocking case first reached our attention last October, FIRE has proudly led the defense of former Valdosta State University (VSU) student T. Hayden Barnes, expelled last May by VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari for engaging in speech clearly protected by the First Amendment. Along with many entries here on The Torch, FIRE has written letters to Chancellor Erroll B. Davis, Jr. and Associate Vice Chancellor J. Burns Newsome, letting them know precisely how unconstitutional Barnes’ expulsion truly was and demanding justice. FIRE even named VSU to our Red Alert list, to put prospective students on notice that attending […]

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  • Valdosta State: Silence on Free Speech Zone

    January 4, 2008

    Here at FIRE, we’ve been checking the mail twice a day, making sure our phone lines are open and sending out test faxes, but everything seems to be in working order. That means there’s absolutely no excuse for Valdosta State University’s (VSU’s) continuing silence regarding our concerns about the school’s blatantly unconstitutional free speech zone. In our November 30 letter to VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari, we outlined the extensive constitutional infirmities contained in VSU’s “Free Expression Area Guidelines,” which limit student expression to a tiny portion of VSU’s campus for just two hours a day. Specifically, FIRE wrote: VSU’s […]

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  • Colleges, Mandatory Counseling, and the Right of Private Conscience

    December 31, 2007

    The Virginia Tech tragedy earlier this year, in which student Seung-Hui Cho killed thirty-three people, ignited many policy debates. One of those debates focused on the college’s responsibility for the mental health of its students. Prior to Mr. Cho’s mass shooting, various Tech officials knew that Mr. Cho had exhibited a series of behaviors indicating the possibility of mental illness. Mr. Cho had persisted in unwanted contact of women, expressed suicidal thoughts, took photographs of women’s legs in class without their knowledge, and written angry, disturbing, and violent stories. The combination of these red flags and the scale of the […]

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  • Valdosta State University: 2007’s Worst Becomes 2008’s Priority

    December 28, 2007

    Undoubtedly, FIRE has had an action-packed—and successful—2007. Thanks in large part to the support of readers like you, FIRE has won crucial victories for fundamental liberties at Brown University, UCLA, Central Michigan University, Colorado State University (twice!), Occidental College (finally!), the University of Delaware, San Francisco State University, Indiana University–South Bend, and Gettysburg College—and that’s an incomplete list. But while I’m very proud of the successes we’ve earned in the year now ending, I think it’s extremely important to stay focused on the battles yet to be won. Because although FIRE corrected some particularly egregious abuses of liberty on our […]

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  • Threats, Intimidation, and Free Speech

    December 27, 2007

    One of the compelling storylines to take away from this year involves a matter that is still fresh in many people’s minds and remains troubling to this day: the Virginia Tech shootings. The horrific events of that day may understandably send a chill down the spine of anyone who has a friend, significant other, child, or family member attending school or working on a college campus. In the wake of Virginia Tech, universities across the country have tried to take the necessary measures to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that they can prevent a similar tragedy from taking place […]

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  • University of Georgia Violates Anonymity of Course Evaluations to Punish Offensive Speech, Then Violates FERPA

    December 4, 2007

    Last year, a University of Georgia student wrote disparaging (but not threatening) personal comments about his professor in his anonymous course evaluations both semesters. The professor examined the student’s handwriting and identified him. The professor also notified the university, which brought in a handwriting expert to verify that the identified student was the writer of the evaluations. This fall, the student was punished and forced to apologize.   I want to say no more about the student because his anonymity has already been violated—not just by the professor but also by the university, and then by the student newspaper. Indeed, […]

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  • In Letter to Valdosta State, FIRE Demands End to Free Speech Zone

    December 3, 2007

    Hot on the heels of awarding Valdosta State University (VSU) the ignominious “honor” of a place on FIRE’s Red Alert list, FIRE wrote VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari last Friday to demand an end to the school’s unconstitutional free speech zone.   While VSU joined Tufts University and Johns Hopkins University on the Red Alert list due to the school’s expulsion of student T. Hayden Barnes for engaging in protected speech, the school’s free speech zone provides still further justification for its ignominy, as I discussed on The Torch a few weeks ago. In our letter, FIRE reminds soon-to-retire President […]

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  • Red Alert: Valdosta State University

    November 27, 2007

    Upon retiring next June, Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald M. Zaccari can now add another achievement to his shameful legacy as head of Valdosta State, namely VSU’s addition to FIRE’s Red Alert list, where the university joins Johns Hopkins University and Tufts University as the “worst of the worst” when it comes to violations of student rights on campus.   Zaccari can’t say he didn’t see it coming. When expelling student T. Hayden Barnes solely for protesting the proposed construction of two parking garages on campus at the cost of $30 million in student fees, Zaccari must have realized […]

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  • Adding Insult to Injury: Valdosta State’s Shameful Free Speech Zone

    November 19, 2007

    As we noted last week, soon-to-be-retired Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald M. Zaccari will leave behind an appalling legacy with respect to liberty on campus. That’s mainly because Zaccari’s expulsion of student T. Hayden Barnes for peacefully protesting Zaccari’s plan to build $30 million parking garages on campus easily ranks as one of the most egregious constitutional violations FIRE has ever seen.   But unfortunately for current VSU students, when it comes to protecting constitutional rights, Zaccari’s negligence isn’t confined solely to the Barnes expulsion. Under President Zaccari, VSU maintains a blatantly unconstitutional “free speech zone”—a perhaps unsurprising discovery, […]

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  • A Legacy of Repression: Valdosta State President’s Early Retirement Can’t Hide Unconstitutional Abuse of Power

    November 15, 2007

    It’s hard to blame embattled Valdosta State President Ronald M. Zaccari for announcing his early retirement yesterday. After being caught red-handed violating the constitutional rights of VSU student T. Hayden Barnes, it’s no surprise that Zaccari suddenly wants to get away from it all a little earlier than planned. Being publicly exposed for breaking the law on the job will do that to a person.   But early retirement cannot hide Zaccari’s clear legacy of contempt for liberty.   After all, it was Zaccari who personally ordered Barnes’ expulsion for engaging in clearly protected constitutional speech. It was Zaccari who, […]

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  • Tune in to FIRE Discussing Valdosta State on the Radio Tomorrow!

    November 6, 2007

    FIRE is still working to defend Valdosta State University student T. Hayden Barnes after he was expelled for publicly protesting the school’s decision to construct two new parking decks on campus.   For more on the ongoing status of this case, tune in tomorrow to Tallahassee’s 100.7 WFLA-FM at 8:05 a.m. Eastern to hear an interview with FIRE Senior Program Officer Will Creeley. You can listen live online, and if you can’t catch it live, you can download it from WFLA’s website to listen later!

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  • Valdosta Update: FIRE Responds to GA Board of Regents’ Non-Response

    November 1, 2007

    At FIRE, we’re all too used to fielding vapid, meaningless non-answers from college administrators in response to our concerns. (Sometimes I’m convinced that there’s a secret administrator instruction booklet dedicated to writing slightly insulting—and wholly unwarranted—“buzz off” letters.)   So I wasn’t extremely surprised to receive just such a letter from a Mr. J. Burns Newsome, the Associate Vice Chancellor for the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, with regard to our letter protesting the blatantly unconstitutional expulsion of Valdosta State University student T. Hayden Barnes.   Newsome, writing on behalf of Chancellor Erroll B. Davis, Jr., […]

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  • Expelled From College for Eco-Collage

    October 31, 2007

    Much like the horrifying University of Delaware case, sometimes a story just sounds too outrageous to be true. So when I first learned that Valdosta State University (VSU), a public school in south Georgia, had expelled a student for a Facebook.com collage protesting the construction of a parking garage on campus, I admit I was skeptical. Yes, I have seen hundreds of absurd and tyrannical abuses by college administrators over the years, but surely he must have done something more serious than just protest a garage.     But it turns out the story was just as outrageous as it […]

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  • VSU student battles expulsion

    October 30, 2007

    All he was saying was give public transportation a chance. At least that’s the explanation of student activist Hayden Barnes, who was expelled from Valdosta State University for protesting the construction of a new campus parking garage. Barnes had wanted university officials to consider more environmentally friendly ways of getting students to school. On May 7, Valdosta State President Ronald Zaccari expelled Barnes in response to a collage he had posted on a personal Web page satirizing the school’s two planned parking decks. In a letter to Barnes, Zaccari said the expulsion was a result of recent activities “directed towards […]

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  • Valdosta Case Hits Blogs, Media

    October 29, 2007

    As outraged reaction from FIRE supporters to Valdosta State University’s (VSU’s) expulsion of student T. Hayden Barnes for protesting construction of parking garages on campus continues to roll in to FIRE’s offices, Hayden’s story is simultaneously gaining traction online and in local media.   WALB-TV in southern Georgia covers FIRE’s involvement with Hayden’s case, and WTXL-TV in Tallahassee surveys the stunned reaction of VSU students to Hayden’s expulsion.   The Student Press Law Center draws attention to the facts of the case here, as does the National Review’s Phi Beta Cons. Elsewhere online, Ifeminists.com, Fundamentals and Falsehoods, SCSU Scholars, and […]

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  • At Valdosta, an Atrocious Violation of Due Process

    October 25, 2007

    The facts surrounding Hayden Barnes’ expulsion from Valdosta State University (VSU) are so shocking that they raise a difficult question: What’s worse, VSU’s violation of Hayden’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech, or VSU’s violation of Hayden’s Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process?   Unfortunately, VSU’s disregard for its constitutional obligations has been so blatant that strong arguments can be made for either side, so picking an answer here is tough. But since the free speech abuses are perhaps more readily apparent to a casual observer, it’s probably a good idea to make clear exactly just how […]

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  • Valdosta State University Expels Student for Peacefully Protesting New Parking Garages

    October 24, 2007

    VALDOSTA, Ga., October 24, 2007—Valdosta State University (VSU) has expelled student T. Hayden Barnes for publicly protesting the school’s decision to construct two new parking decks on campus. After VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari labeled Barnes a “clear and present danger” and mandated that Barnes submit certifications of his mental health and on-going therapy as conditions of his readmission to VSU, Barnes contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “A kind of madness seems to be gripping our colleges, one in which merely claiming a student poses a ‘threat’—no matter how absurd or attenuated the allegation […]

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  • Valdosta State Student Expelled For Criticism of School

    October 3, 2007

    Hayden Barnes, an environmentally-minded student at Valdosta State University (VSU) in Georgia, has been expelled for criticizing the construction of two new parking garages on campus, according to a local news report. Concerned that new garages would provide little incentive for VSU students to rely less on cars, Barnes openly advocated for money budgeted for the parking garages to be spent elsewhere. Barnes spread his message by sending letters to his student newspaper, posting flyers on campus, and including pictures of the proposed parking garages on his page on the popular social networking site Facebook.com. However, rather than successfully derailing […]

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