Western Washington University: Student Investigated Over Parking Ticket Remark
After receiving a parking ticket from WWU's Parking Services Division in September 2011, student Jacob Ramirez sent in his payment via personal check, writing "F--- the Police" on both the check and the ticket. Two weeks later, WWU notified him that he was being investigated for a possible violation of WWU's Student Rights and Responsibilities Code, alleging that his message constituted an "unwanted and/or intimidating contact and/or communication of a threatening nature." After FIRE reminded WWU of its obligation to protect Ramirez's free speech rights, WWU closed its investigation and apologized to Ramirez, acknowledging that it was "inappropriate" to use the university's disciplinary code to summon a student to discuss protected speech.
- "Response from Associate Dean of Students Sherry L. Mallory to FIRE, October 28, 2011," October 28, 2011
- "Letter from FIRE to Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard, October 21, 2011," October 21, 2011
- "Notice of Investigation from Michael L. Schardein to Jacob Ramirez, October 19, 2011," October 19, 2011
- "Check from Jacob Ramirez to Western Washington University, October 6, 2011," October 6, 2011
- "WWU Admits Error in Using Student Code to Investigate Protected Speech," by Peter Bonilla, November 1, 2011
- "Victory: Western Washington University Drops Investigation of Student Over Parking Ticket Remark," by Peter Bonilla, October 27, 2011: After intervention from FIRE, Western Washington University has ended its investigation of student Jacob Ramirez's protected speech. WWU's Parking Services and University Police division had reported Ramirez for discipline after he wrote the message "F--- the Police" on a parking ticket he had been issued and on his personal check paying the ticket. Despite the remark's clear protection under the First Amendment, Ramirez was investigated under WWU's "Harassment and/or Threats of Violence" policy for his speech's alleged "threatening nature." After FIRE reminded WWU that it may not investigate clearly protected speech, WWU dropped the charges and cleared the student's record of any mention of the incident.