CHICAGO, February 28, 2013—DePaul University has punished a student for publicizing the names of fellow students who admitted to vandalizing his organization’s pro-life display. The student, Kristopher Del Campo, has been placed on probation after being found responsible for multiple conduct violations, including one that absurdly brands the publication of the names as “disorderly, violent, intimidating or dangerous.” The Foundation for Individual Rights In Education (FIRE) has intervened in his case.
“Kristopher Del Campo’s group was the victim of a politically motivated crime—and yet DePaul University is punishing Del Campo for naming the people who committed the crime,” said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. “Unfortunately, this utter disregard for student rights has become par for the course at DePaul and too many other college campuses.”
On January 22, 2013, the DePaul chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), having attained the required permits, erected a pro-life display consisting of roughly 500 pink and blue flags planted in the ground of the campus quad to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. That afternoon, numerous DePaul students vandalized the display by tearing the flags from the ground and throwing them in trash cans around campus. Del Campo, YAF’s chairman, reported the vandalism to DePaul’s Department of Public Safety, which investigated.
With the investigation completed, DePaul Assistant Dean of Students Domonic Rollins provided Del Campo with a report from the Department of Public Safety, containing the names of 13 DePaul students who had admitted to vandalizing YAF’s display. On February 5, the national YAF organization posted this document on its website. On February 8, DePaul notified Del Campo that he was suspected of violating DePaul’s Code Of Student Responsibility—including a charge of “Disorderly, Violent, Intimidating or Dangerous Behavior,” which encompasses “creat[ing] a substantial risk of physical harm,” “causing significant emotional harm,” and “bullying.”
“Punishing a student for naming those who committed a crime against him or her sets a very dangerous precedent,” said FIRE’s Shibley. “For example, would DePaul punish a female student for telling her friends to avoid a person who admitted to sexually assaulting her?”
FIRE wrote to DePaul’s president, Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, on February 21, making clear that Del Campo had the right to publicly identify the students who had admitted to vandalizing his group’s display, and that labeling him as a potentially dangerous threat for doing so made a mockery of DePaul’s free speech promises. Exposing the students’ behavior to the public, FIRE explained, did not violate their rights, and DePaul had in fact violated Del Campo’s rights by charging him for speaking up about his own case. “Students who purposefully vandalize the works of other students,” FIRE wrote, “should not expect to be shielded from the public consequences of their actions.”
Nevertheless, DePaul found Del Campo responsible for the charge of “Disorderly, Violent, Intimidating or Dangerous Behavior,” as well as a charge related to “Judicial Process Compliance.” Del Campo has been placed on disciplinary probation and is prohibited from all contact with the students named in the public safety report. DePaul has also required that Del Campo complete an “Educational Project” in the form of a reflection letter.
Del Campo plans to appeal these sanctions.
“It is deeply distressing that at DePaul University a student can be labeled a potentially violent threat simply for speaking about the injustice his group suffered at the hands of his fellow students,” said Peter Bonilla, associate director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “Del Campo and his group are the victims of a crime, not the perpetrators. DePaul must quickly undo this grave injustice against student rights and basic notions of fairness and decency.”
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.
Peter Bonilla, Associate Director, Individual Rights Defense Program, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, C.M., President, DePaul University: 312-362-8850; email@example.com