Jihad Daniel’s case at William Paterson University is particularly striking because Daniel himself argued his own case quite forcefully and eloquently in his March 24 email defense sent to university administrators. While reviewing his email, I thought it was worth sharing in its entirety, not only as a case document, but also as a fine example of a student knowing and respectfully asserting his rights without a hint of hesitation or doubt. Here it is:
Gentlemen, I greet you all with the universal greeting of Peace be unto you. My response to the false charge is that I categorically deny these charges.
Here are the facts:
- I responded to an announcement that was unsolicited.
- [This] announcement…was not work related.
- This was an announcement that was sent out to the public.
- There a couple of areas that indicated if you wanted to respond[,] here was how to do it.
- I responded not in a way that maligned anyone’s character, or defamed or labeled them.
I am a student here enrolled in a graduate program and also am an employee. As I am the coordinator responsible for the fixing of the printers, troubleshooting problems and interfacing with all departments and vendors, I am well known all over the campus. If you query any of my peers, colleagues, and department heads, they will tell you that at no time have I ever disrespected anyone.
The question is this: Do students at a public college or university have First Amendment rights? The answer is an emphatic yes!!! As the United States Supreme Court said back in 1969, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional right to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” As agents of government, public school officials are prohibited by the First Amendment from censoring most student speech. Students at a public school have the right to voice their opinions and write about the issues that concern them just like every other American.
What was my intent? I responded to the unsolicited email as a student and in conjunction with the tenets embodied in the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. You cannot invite me to reply to something and then become offended because I do not respond they way you want me [to]. That was not the intent of the Founding Fathers and the concept of “[t]he market place of ideas.”
I know for the believers in two of these faiths, Christianity and Islam, what I stated was a factual statement. We believe this but at the same time we abide by and live under the [c]onstitutional [l]aws. We do not violate them.
I believe my [c]onstitutional and [r]eligious rights have been violated by this false charge. I await your response, [g]entlemen, and if it is deemed necessary[,] I will contact a GSA lawyer and speak with some media contacts that I have made while pursuing my graduate degree.