Adams State University will settle a federal lawsuit brought by a former ASU professor who says the school violated his free speech and due process rights when it banned him from campus over blog posts criticizing the university’s pay practices.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado announced in a press release yesterday that ASU agreed to rescind the “No Trespass Order” it enacted against Danny Ledonne and will pay $100,000 to settle the lawsuit the ACLU of Colorado brought on Ledonne’s behalf in February.
Ledonne was banned from campus in October 2015, two days after he began blogging critically about ASU administrators on his Watching Adams blog. Ledonne taught in the Mass Communication department and did media production work for ASU between 2011 and 2015. After ASU didn’t renew his contract in the spring of that year, he launched Watching Adams.
After banishing Ledonne, ASU repeatedly said that the former professor had not been targeted for his protected speech. But we pointed out numerous inconsistencies in the school’s story here on The Torch. Specifically, we noted that the persona non grata policy used to ban Ledonne had only been enacted the day after Ledonne’s first critical post appeared. Within 24 hours, ASU’s police chief personally delivered a trespass notice to Ledonne at his home.
In an even more cringe-worthy twist uncovered by my colleague Adam Steinbaugh, ASU appeared to have been in such a rush to target Ledonne that it copied and pasted a persona non grata policy from another Colorado institution’s website onto its own—but failed to replace the other school’s name:
Other ASU missteps that may have led to the settlement include “multiple unsubstantiated public claims” by ASU President Beverlee McClure in the wake of Ledonne’s banishment that he “had engaged in ‘harassment,’ ‘direct and indirect threats,’ and ‘terrorism.’” The ACLU of Colorado said in its release that the university was unable to produce a single piece of evidence to substantiate those allegations during litigation.
“By summarily banning Danny from a public campus and falsely labeling him a security threat, without providing any opportunity to rebut the false allegations, the university deprived him of due process and unjustifiably retaliated against him for his constitutionally-protected criticism of university practices,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.
ACLU of Colorado cooperating attorney Reid Neureiter of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP, who represented Ledonne on a pro bono basis, said he hopes ASU “will take appropriate steps in the future to ensure that any person subject to being barred from campus will receive fair notice and a reasonable opportunity to challenge the decision before an impartial decision-maker.”
For his part, Ledonne said he was satisfied with the settlement over what he described as “the university’s heavy-handed attempt to discourage [him] and others who disagree with the administration from speaking out.”