Minnesota College suspends student for advocating gun rights

By October 15, 2007

After discovering one of its students had sent an e-mail urging students be permitted to carry concealed weapons in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings that took place in April 2007 and killed 32 people, Hamline University in Minnesota not only suspended the student, Troy Scheffler, but university officials ordered Mr. Scheffler undergo a psychiatric evaluation before being permitted to return to school.

“Hamline’s punishment of Troy Scheffler is severe, unfair and apparently unwarranted,” stated Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a Philadelphia-based civil rights advocacy group assisting Mr. Scheffler with this issue.

The controversy erupted when Hamline’s vice president of student affairs, David Stern, informed students in an Apr. 17 e-mail the university would provide additional counselors in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy. Mr. Scheffler responded to Mr. Stern’s e-mail by suggesting Hamline’s ban on carrying concealed weapons encourages rather than discourages such tragedies

.But it was Mr. Scheffler’s response to an Apr. 19 e-mail from Hamline President Linda Hanson that placed the student on campus radar. In the e-mail to Ms. Hanson, Mr. Scheffler once again criticized the university for its policy of preventing students from carrying concealed weapons.

Initially, Ms. Hanson informed Mr. Scheffler he would be permitted to discuss his concerns with university officials, but three days later, before he could even accept Ms. Hanson’s invitation, Dean of Students Alan Sickbert suspended Mr. Scheffler, citing the fact his e-mails to Mr. Stern and Ms. Hanson were “deemed to be threatening and thus an alleged violation of the Hamline University Judicial Code.” The university also required Mr. Scheffler to meet with a certified mental health professional for an evaluation prior to being permitted to return to campus.

Officials at FIRE had attempted to inform Hamline they are not in step with the First Amendment, but university officials are sticking by their guns.

Ms. Hanson wrote that while “we are committed to our students’rights of individual expression,” the suspension would stand in light of Mr. Scheffler’s e-mails and other “critical input” from community members. Mr. Scheffler was never informed as to the other “critical input.”

FIRE is continuing to challenge Hamline on its decision, but there is no immediate mention of a lawsuit being filed.

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Schools: Hamline University