Valdosta State University: Student Expelled for Peacefully Protesting Parking Garages

Category: Due Process, Free Speech
Schools: Valdosta State University

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 “clear and present danger” after he posted a collage page on Facebook that included pictures of Zaccari, a parking deck, and the caption “S.A.V.E.-Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage,” a sarcastic reference to concerns Barnes says Zaccari had expressed in a meeting about his “legacy” as president of VSU. FIRE wrote two letters to the chancellor and the vice chancellor of the Board of Regents, who reversed VSU’s expulsion.

On July 23, 2015, more than eight years after his unjust expulsion, Barnes’ lawsuit against VSU and former VSU president Ronald Zaccari concluded with the announcement of a $900,000 settlement.