UNH student evicted over dorm fliers

By October 31, 2004

DURHAM – A sophomore at the University of New Hampshire has been evicted from his dorm for posting fliers urging women to lose weight by taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Timothy Garneau, 20, of Berlin, said he posted the fliers as a joke because he was tired of waiting so long for the elevator. Garneau lived on the seventh floor of Stoke Hall.

Garneau posted fliers Sept. 3 that showed a fit woman in a leotard and said: “Nine out of 10 freshman girls gain 10 to 15 pounds. But there is something you can do about it. If you live below the sixth floor, take the stairs. Not only will you feel better about yourself, but you will also be saving us time and won’t be sore on the eyes.”

“I thought it would be funny to poke humor at the situation,” Garneau said.

UNH’s Judicial and Mediation Programs Office found him responsible Oct. 8 for lying to school officials, violating an affirmative action policy, harassment and disorderly conduct. Garneau’s appeal was denied Oct. 24.

Since then, he has been living in his car. He said he cannot afford an off-campus apartment.

UNH officials declined to comment, citing federal privacy law. But university documents show several men and women complained the fliers were offensive.

The severity of Garneau’s punishment took into account an earlier incident when he gave a false name to a UNH staff member investigating dorm drinking, according to university documents. Garneau was placed on probation for that violation.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education,a nonprofit group that supports freedom of expression, criticized UNH’s handling of his case. “Forcing a student into homelessness for posting a satirical flier is not just unlawful, it’s cruel,” the group’s president, David French, said.

On Wednesday, UNH offered to set aside all the charges except lying to school officials. Under the new decision, Garneau would be on probation and be eligible to live in another dorm if space is available.

The student said he plans to appeal that decision, also.

Garneau, a political science major who hopes to become a lawyer, admits he initially lied to his residential hall director about posting the fliers, but said he told the truth “about two minutes later” and posted written apologies.

“The point is that I just think UNH is being unfair,” he said.

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Schools: University of New Hampshire