College Violates Student’s Rights, Follows It Up By Deleting Critical Comments From Its Facebook Page

April 8, 2014

By Tim Crushing at Techdirt

Another college has deployed censorious tactics, and as usual, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has the story.

On October 23, 2013, Asnuntuck Community College (ACC) student Nicholas Saucier had a videotaped conversation about recent gun legislation with Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, who was visiting campus as part of an ongoing conference. At the end of the conversation, during which he called Malloy a “snake” as Malloy left in his vehicle, Saucier was confronted by the college’s president and a campus security officer, who escorted him off campus. The college charged Saucier with harassment and making threats, among other violations of its conduct policies.

The video of this encounter is still live (no doubt much to ACC’s chagrin) and it shows Saucier discussing the impact of the governor’s gun control policies on his ammunition business. Governor Malloy doesn’t look too interested in fielding complaints from a constituent, which probably explains Saucier’s tossed off, low-level insult as his “representative” exited the scene.

Not only did Saucier get run off campus by the school president and his security team, he was also suspended and banned from the school’s property until college administration could “discuss” his supposed “harassment” with him. But rather than entertain any ideas of due process, ACC instead tried to pressure the student into “pleading guilty” to all “charges” and submitting to a mandatory professional evaluation before he could apply for readmission.

Saucier instead pushed for a formal hearing, rather than plead guilty to obviously false charges. The school allowed this but would not allow him to enter his taped conversation as evidence on his behalf. It also prohibited any recordings of the hearing itself, ensuring it could (attempt) to spin the outcome in any direction it chose to. As can be expected, the school found Saucier guilty of all charges. It did lift the suspension but put him on probation.

FIRE stepped in and sent a letter to the college demanding that it explain its violations of Saucier’s due process and free speech rights. This letter went unanswered. This didn’t stop the school from making another unfounded claim when contacted by another site covering the story.

The Blaze reports:

“A spokesperson from Asnuntuck Community College told TheBlaze that they are seeking a correction from FIRE, saying their statement on the situation is “categorically false,” and that Saucier was suspended for his harassing behavior and not the subject matter. They declined to go into any more specifics, citing Saucier’s privacy.”

FIRE has not received any requests from ACC for corrections or any other correspondence at this time (although maybe such a request is on the way). We have not asserted that Saucier was suspended for the subject matter of his questioning—only that his speech was protected by the First Amendment and was neither harassing nor threatening, despite what ACC has alleged.

All the while, the ACC has been busy burying dissenting opinions from students and others. FIRE reports that the admins of the school’s Facebook page had been removing critical comments before finally deciding to take the entire page offline.

After we covered the case here on The Torch, though, concerned citizens took toACC’s Facebook page to demand answers and action from ACC administrators. And they did get a reaction—just not the one they’d hoped for.

ACC deleted every critical or questioning post from its Facebook page.

Unfortunately for the school, these deletions are well documented. Even if these hadn’t been captured, the fact that the page was removed would indicate that the school is still completely uninterested in dealing with the results of its censorious efforts.

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