As today’s press release states, St. Louis Community College at Meramec (STLCC) has fully exonerated student Jun Xiao of hazing and disorderly conduct charges that STLCC brought against him after he sent e-mails to his classmates inviting them to take a class with him at a different college.
We are happy to report this victory in Xiao’s case, especially after earlier this month, we reported some rather disturbing news on this case. After STLCC conceded that it could not punish Xiao—who was put on disciplinary probation and banned from e-mailing his classmates—for his constitutionally protected e-mails, the college kept him on probation, citing new allegations including an absurd charge that Xiao asked too many questions in his organic chemistry class. STLCC should have immediately revoked the punishment against Xiao for his e-mails, but it took the involvement of FIRE and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri before the school capitulated.
STLCC’s Acting Vice President of Student Affairs Daniel R. Herbst even informed Xiao that Herbst was “dismissing all allegations relating to your inappropriate use of [e-mail]” because “you may have a constitutional right to send e-mails to other students.” But Xiao remained on disciplinary probation due to “remaining allegations of misconduct” of which he had been unaware. Xiao never received notice of the charges against him, was afforded no hearing, and was forced to submit an appeal to the same person who originally found him guilty. To say STLCC’s execution of its procedures made a mockery of due process is a vast understatement.
Thankfully, Xiao and STLCC have now signed a settlement agreement, under which STLCC agreed to “immediately dismiss all disciplinary charges against Xiao,” to remove all related records from his permanent file, and to restore his e-mail access on STLCC’s Blackboard class e-mail system. However, the fact that STLCC’s case against Xiao never should have proceeded to this point remains, as does the fact that it takes groups like FIRE to combat these seemingly endless violations to students’ rights.