An instructor at Adams State University in Colorado who was rejected for a tenure-track position is suing the school because officials threatened him with trespass charges allegedly for exercising his right to criticize the school’s pay structure.
The case was brought in U.S. District Court by the Colorado office of the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Daniele Ledonne against Beverlee McClure, president of Adams State, and Paul Grohowski, the university’s police chief, who delivered the threat.
The case has attracted the attention of organizations such as Inside Higher Ed, The Academe Blog, Game Politics, Adjunct Nation, The College Fix and the Foundation for Individual Rights (FIRE).
FIRE noted Ledonne taught from 2011 to 2015 in the mass communications division at the Alamosa, Colorado, university and created video projects, but the school refused him entry to a tenure-track program.
Ledonne launched a website, WatchingAdams.org, to report on various issues involving the university, include alleged school violations of the Colorado Wage Act, the Colorado Open Records Act, various “pay inequities,” employee confidentiality violations and its reportedly low graduation rates.
The complaint states that shortly after the dispute began, the university, through defendants McClure and Grohowski, banished Ledonne from campus and, through an order delivered to his home, threatened him with trespass charges if he violated their wishes.
A WND request to the university and McClure for comment did not generate a response.
The case alleges the school violated Ledonne’s due process and free speech rights; falsely accused him of harassment, terrorism and threatening physical violence; took action without providing him notice of specific allegations; and refused to provide a meaningful hearing or opportunity to defend himself “against these false, stigmatizing accusations.”
The complaint says the defendants deprived Ledonne of his “right to visit a public university campus, coupled with defendants’ repeated public false accusations that Mr. Ledonne is, among other things, a ‘terrorist,’ harasser, and threat to public safety.'”
It alleges the school officials have “stigmatized Mr. Ledonne in the eyes of the Alamosa community.”
When the case was filed, the school said it had been “eager to completely refute” the allegations “but … lacked the legal ability to do, until now.”
However, FIRE said: “This makes little sense. One of the core problems with ASU’s treatment of Ledonne is its silence. ASU was required by its own policies to give Ledonne an opportunity to respond, but it never told Ledonne what, precisely, merited his exile.”
Meanwhile, FIRE reported, McClure granted interviews to publicly accuse Ledonne of having engaged in “personal attacks and terrorism.” The board of trustees issued its own statement to campus members. ASU issued a press release, and ASU’s police chief dispatched campuswide emails against Ledonne admitting that while Ledonne hadn’t broken any laws it was necessary to banish him.
The statement said: “In this post-Columbine, hypersensitive world of mass shootings and violence on college campus’ nationwide, it is my duty to balance the free speech and individual rights against the public safety of the many. As your chief of police it is my duty to assure the sense of safety, security and comfort to all who attend and work here at Adams State University. Although, Mr. Ledonne’s behavior has not yet breached the realm of violation of our laws, my recommendation to ban him from campus is sound, rational and errs on the side of public safety.”
McClure also sent her own campus-wide emails and met with the faculty senate “to discuss this matter.”
FIRE commented: “ASU’s need to remain silent hasn’t prevented it from speaking in detail about the matter, except for the one time when it most mattered: when due process demanded that ASU give Ledonne an opportunity to respond and contest ASU’s allegations. This would have been the opportunity to correct any ‘misinformation’ – not after Ledonne was forced to file a lawsuit.”
The ACLU said it was last Oct. 12 when Ledonne posted a series of articles criticizing the pay disparity between faculty and the administration on campus.
“Two days later, University President Beverlee McClure issued a ‘No Trespass Order’ to Ledonne, delivered at his residence by campus police chief Paul Grohowski,” the ACLU report said. “The order declared that for ‘an indefinite period of time,’ Ledonne was prohibited from being on Adams State University property and that his presence on campus ‘would result in his immediate arrest for trespass.'”
ACLU spokesman Mark Silverstein said: “Not only were Danny Ledonne’s First Amendment rights violated when university officials retaliated against him for operating a website criticizing their policies, the ban was issued without notice or an explanation of the evidence being used to support it, which violated his constitutional right to due process.”
The organization pointed out that the state Supreme Court has found that a community member’s right to access Colorado public university functions and facilities which “are otherwise open to the public-at-large, is a valuable property or liberty interest entitled to constitutional protection.”
Because of the order, the complaint explains, Ledonne is unable to be on campus for events contracted by his video business, Emberwilde Productions.