College Student Suspended for Asking about Gun Laws

June 23, 2014

By Macaela Bennett at The College Fix

A Connecticut college student who was suspended for asking Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy about the state’s gun laws maintains his innocence in an interview with The College Fix, saying he was railroaded by administrators and deserves to have his record expunged.

Last fall, Asnuntuck Community College student Nicholas Saucier was suspended after he questioned Malloy about the state’s new gun laws during a campus visit to a conference focused on how to expand businesses and help residents and veterans.

Saucier, a veteran, was upset his ammunition company may be forced to leave the state following laws signed by the governor, and asked the politician about it as the governor left the conference.

A video Saucier took of the interaction shows it to be a largely respectful dialogue, although it was clear Malloy did not want to talk to Saucier, and Saucier was aggressive in his questions. As the governor got in the car, Saucier called him a “snake.”

“I asked about the gun legislation and our conversation ended,” Saucier told The College Fix. “I felt very slighted and I said, ‘You’re a snake.’ I felt very put off by how he basically gave me the cold shoulder when I thought I had been fairly polite and asked a pertinent question.”

But college officials accused him of threatening the governor, and refused to view his video evidence he provided during a student misconduct hearing.

“The school came out with some very outrageous claims and wouldn’t afford me the opportunity to disprove them,” Saucier said“It was the absolute definition of a kangaroo court.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has taken up Saucier’s case. The director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense program, Peter Bonilla, said they will pursue the matter to ensure Saucier’s due process rights are upheld.

The incident in question took place last October. Right after the governor left, college President James Lombella and a campus security officer led Saucier off campus, and he was suspended, with campus officials alleging he was a “danger” to the school.

When he returned for his misconduct trial, things remained tense.

“At that point, it was still unclear to me why I had been removed from campus and threatened with arrest if I returned,” Saucier said. “When I arrived, there was a security guard waiting out front. We went into the meeting and I could tell this was not going to be an impartial process. She had made her mind up before I walked in the door.”

She being Katie Kelley, dean of students. Using the testimony of six witnesses, Kelley accused Saucier of crashing the event by disrupting Malloy’s speech, screaming in his face, chasing him outside the building yelling, “Keep your f**king hands off,” and “You’re a f**king snake,” and threatening him with a gun.

The college “refused to review Saucier’s videos showing his speech to be protected by the First Amendment” at his Nov. 18 student misconduct hearing, FIRE said in a press release April 1.

“It also prohibited any recording of the hearing, depriving Saucier of a fundamental safeguard colleges routinely afford students. These unwritten abridgments to ACC’s written procedures severely impaired Saucier’s ability to defend himself.”

“They were puppets,” Saucier said of the panel that reviewed his case. “Any time I tried to read from their own policy book, they would stare at me with this bewildered, scared look and turn to the dean, who would tell them what to say. I think they were very uncomfortable with the position they were put into.”

The panel decided Saucier was guilty of all charges and placed him on probation, saying any future conduct violations would likely result in suspension or expulsion. After leaving ACC, Saucier contacted FIRE.

“We wrote a letter to ACC explaining our concerns, asking for more information and to correct anything we may not have understood,” FIRE’s Bonilla said. “We gave them several weeks to respond and after a while of hearing nothing, we figured they wanted to brush it under the rug, so we went to the next step of issuing a press release to show what they were trying to keep private.”

The school still hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment from FIRE and The College Fix. In a statement to The Daily Caller regarding the incident, campus officials deny the allegations, saying “the FIRE story contains inaccuracies. No student was suspended for talking with the governor or with any other public official about an issue of public interest.”

The Daily Caller article adds that Saucier was suspended because his “line of questioning violated the ACC student code of conduct because it wasn’t cordial enough, and administrators also said the student’s decision to film the encounter was offensive, and the act of removing his recording device from his pocket was threatening.”

Schools: Asnuntuck Community College Cases: Asnuntuck Community College: Student Recording Conversation with Governor Suspended, Deprived of Fair Hearing