DURHAM – The University of New Hampshire dropped three of the four charges last week against a sophomore who hung posters in his dorm suggesting freshman girls could lose weight by taking the stairs.
Timothy Garneau, 20, of Berlin, will still face sanctions for lying to Stoke Hall Director Brad Williams about making the poster. The charges of harassment, disorderly or lewd conduct and affirmative action violations have been thrown out, as has the decision to evict Garneau from university housing.
According to the university’s latest decision, he will be relocated to another dormitory. Garneau, a criminal justice and pre-law student, said he was living both out of his Ford Contour and with friends since moving out of his double room in Stoke Hall two weeks ago.
“I’m happy that I won’t have to deal with the administration anymore,” Garneau said yesterday after receiving the decision. “I know I’m not the kid who tries to get himself in trouble. I’m happy to just go back to my normal way of life and concentrate solely on academics.”
University spokeswoman Kim Billings did not return phone calls yesterday. When initially contacted about the issue, she said the school could not comment because it involved a student’s record.
The charges against Garneau stemmed from a Sept. 13 incident where he hung a poster in each of the dorm elevators. The poster, which Garneau eventually admitted was his creation, featured a grainy woman in a leotard and a warning that many girls gain the “freshman 15.” The sign suggested that students should take the stairs if they lived below the sixth floor: “Not only will u feel better about yourself but you will also be saving us time and wont be sore on the eyes (sic).” A resident assistant removed the posters within two hours.
Garneau said the poster was meant as a joke and he made it because some students, including himself, were annoyed that others took the elevator up one or two floors. Garneau lived on the seventh floor of Stoke Hall.
A number of students allegedly complained about the sign, and the university ruled that it had an “adverse impact on the community” in a judicial hearing on Oct. 8. The judicial office evicted Garneau from university housing, put him on disciplinary probation until May 2006 and ordered him to attend counseling and write a 3,000-word reflection paper.
After a rejected appeal, Garneau moved out of his dorm on Oct. 24. He also contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit that protects free speech on college campuses. The organization wrote two letters to UNH President Ann Weaver Hart, calling for the school to drop the charges against Garneau.
A judicial decision dated Oct. 27 doesn’t give a reason as to why the school dropped the charges. It orders Garneau to relocate to Gibbs Hall, a smaller dorm across campus, to show him that “there are consequences for not telling the truth.” Garneau said although it won’t be easy to leave his friends in Stoke Hall, he is happy to once again have a place to live.
“It’s a little bit of disappointment and a little bit of happiness,” he said. “You’re kind of taken out of your home and thrown into a new environment.”
The decision also says that Garneau has lied to university staff before and that he was already on probation for an alcohol-related incident. The judicial office decided to extend his disciplinary probation until May 2006, the document says.
Garneau was ordered to have an ethics meeting with a university judicial officer as well. In FIRE’s second letter to the university, the organization said the meeting was bogus, calling it a “deeply troubling form of thought reform.”
“Under these circumstances, I don’t think they (UNH) have the moral authority to lecture him (Garneau) on ethics,” said Greg Lukianoff, the organization’s director of legal and public advocacy. “The charges were ridiculous.”
But while Garneau said he agrees with Lukianoff, he’s more concerned with moving into his new dorm this weekend than with challenging the university again.
“I just wish this whole thing wouldn’t have happened and been blown out of proportion by the school,” he said. “But I’m glad that it’s over.”
Schools: University of New Mexico