Eviction from university housing for posting flyer urging womenstudents to take the stairs

Sanford Levinson SLevinson at law.utexas.edu
Thu Oct 28 13:28:32 PDT 2004


This strikes me as dumb all around, but what is dumbest is evicting the
guy.  And I suppose I think it is not only dumb, but also
unconstitutional.

sandy 

-----Original Message-----
From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
[mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Volokh, Eugene
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2004 1:29 PM
To: conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: Eviction from university housing for posting flyer urging
womenstudents to take the stairs

	The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes this
incident.  Any thoughts on the First Amendment issue here?  (I take it
that the university could generally prohibit the posting of flyers on
dorm walls, or even impose a content-based but viewpoint-neutral ban on
the use of certain words, such as profanity or for that matter perhaps
even "dishonest[]" or "lewd" terms, but I take it that this isn't really
what happened here.)

	Eugene


-----Original Message-----

University of New Hampshire Evicts Student for Posting Flier
 
DURHAM, N.H., October 28, 2004-The University of New Hampshire has
evicted a student from housing for posting fliers in his residential
hall joking that freshman women could lose the "Freshman 15" by walking
up the dormitory stairs.  The public university found him guilty of
violating policies on affirmative action, harassment, and disorderly
conduct, and has sentenced him to mandatory counseling and probation
along with his eviction.  See the flier here.
[http://www.thefire.org/images/UNH_Garneau_poster.jpg]
 

In appealing his sentence, student Timothy Garneau explained that the
flier was intended to make light of the common frustration with people
who delay the elevator by taking it for just one or two floors instead
of taking the stairs.  UNH rejected his appeal, and Garneau was ordered
to move out of his dormitory.  Garneau reports that he is currently
living out of his car.
                                                            
"Forcing a student into homelessness for posting a satirical flier is
not just unlawful-it's  cruel," remarked David French, president of the
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has intervened on
Garneau's behalf.  "UNH is demonstrating to its community not only that
it will ignore their First Amendment freedoms, but also that it doesn't
care about the basic welfare of its students."
 
The "offensive" flier included a cartoon picture of a woman in outdated
workout gear and the following message:
 
9 out of 10 freshman girls gain 10 - 15 pounds.  But there is something
you can do about it. If u live below the 6th floor takes the
stairs....Not only will u feel better about yourself but you will also
be saving us time and wont be sore on the eyes. [sic]
 
Garneau posted copies of the flier in the elevators of his dormitory,
Stoke Hall.  According to Garneau, a resident assistant had removed all
of the fliers within less than two hours.  When Garneau was approached
by the Stoke Hall Director and accused of hanging the fliers, he
initially denied responsibility, fearing that he would be punished
harshly and embarrassed in front of his peers.  However, Garneau soon
admitted to posting the flier and was charged with offenses including:
"acts of dishonesty"; violation of "affirmative action" policies;
"harassment"; and "conduct which is disorderly, lewd."  
 
Within a week of the incident, and prior to his hearing, Garneau posted
a written public apology for unintentionally offending others in his
residential hall and apologized in person to students that he knew had
complained.
 
At an October 8 hearing, the university found Garneau guilty of all
charges.  Despite Garneau's offers to voluntarily atone for his actions
through community service, social awareness projects, and other
activities, the university sentenced him to immediate expulsion from
student housing and disciplinary probation extended through May 30,
2006.  He was also required to meet with a counselor to discuss his
"decisions, actions, and reflections" about the incident, to write a
3000-word reflection paper about the counseling session, and to submit
an apology letter to the residents of Stoke Hall to be published in the
hall's newspaper.  
 
Garneau appealed these outrageous sanctions on October 21, and quickly
contacted FIRE for assistance.  UNH promptly denied Garneau's appeal,
however, and he was ordered to leave his dormitory by October 24. . . .
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