Red Alert: Valdosta State University
November 27, 2007
by William Creeley
Zaccari can’t say he didn’t see it coming. When expelling student T. Hayden Barnes
solely for protesting the proposed construction of two parking garages on campus at the cost of $30 million in student fees, Zaccari must have realized that his actions were in violation of the First Amendment. After all, it’s reasonable to expect the president of a public university to understand the basic principles of free speech, and to realize that he cannot expel students just because he finds their speech annoying, inconvenient, or disagreeable. But apparently Zaccari somehow thought the Constitution didn’t cover VSU. Or maybe he just believed he could get away with silencing a student for speaking his mind. Either way, Zaccari’s expulsion of Hayden Barnes easily ranks among the worst abuses of student rights FIRE has ever seen—and that’s precisely why Zaccari has earned his school a spot on FIRE’s Red Alert list.
VSU administrators should be embarrassed—and VSU students should be outraged—to be associated with a school that so blatantly disregards its obligations under the Constitution. If Hayden Barnes can be expelled for engaging in speech clearly protected by the First Amendment, further abuses of liberty are equally possible. (And we haven’t even mentioned VSU’s horrendously unconstitutional free speech zone
.) VSU joins FIRE’s Red Alert list for good reason—unfortunately, VSU has earned this shameful distinction.