A disciplinary hearing at a Florida university for a student who helped an independent journalist obtain a video revealing an official’s willingness to establish a “pro-ISIS club” was abruptly canceled Thursday and rescheduled for next week.
Word of the change came from Project Veritas, which worked with an honors student at Barry University on the video project.
The school declined to respond to a request from WND for comment on the change in the hearing for the student, which apparently was rescheduled for Monday.
Laura, whose last name was withheld for privacy reasons, was placed on “interim suspension” by the school, according to Project Veritas, the investigative organization begun by James O’Keefe to expose organizational corruption and dishonesty.
O’Keefe had released a video showing a Barry University official embracing a proposal to host a pro-ISIS club at the Miami campus.
The video, part of the Project Veritas College Investigation Tour, opens with the narrative: “We told administrators we wanted to start a pro-ISIS club. Our investigator is actually an honor student at the university.”
A man identified as Derek Bley, coordinator for leadership development and student organizations at the campus, appears on the video to offer to help Laura.
Laura then says she wants to know the steps to forming a club on campus.
When the student was suspended, Project Veritas said it was under questionable circumstances.
“The vague language used by Barry University in issuing the suspension, coupled with the timing, suggest that Barry does not have an actionable claim against Laura. Rather, it appears that they object to the negative publicity the school has received due to the statements of their administrative and academic staff,” the organization said in a statement.
Project Veritas said the charges against Laura in her suspension notice “were far from explicit and ambiguously read ‘your alleged actions were the cause root [sic] of disruption of the University community and the creation of a hostile environment for members of the University staff.'”
Project Veritas noted Laura had recently honored for being the most outstanding senior in the communications department.
“It is difficult to comprehend how Barry University simultaneously deems Laura as an honor student and a disruption; with each resulting in a formal university action: an official university honor and an interim suspension,” said O’Keefe.
He said the school is using an honor student as a scapegoat, instead of addressing the issue, since there was no due process, there have been no clear charges filed and there have been no specific allegations.
The school email to Laura said: “Please be advised that your interim suspension from the university will remain in effect pending resolution of the accusations against you via the university Student Conduct System. Violation(s) will be filed by the Student Conduct Office and you will receive notification of the violations via your student email account.”
As the hearing date had approached, Project Veritas openly questioned the school’s commitment to fairness.
In a statement, the group said the university’s plan was a “Soviet-style Kangaroo Court.”
“Dean of Students Maria Alvarez will control the Star Chamber hearing, and incredulously has already cherry-picked the ‘jury’ – which she has refused to publicize in direct violation of Barry’s Code of Conduct. For all intents and purposes, Alvarez is the judge, jury, and executioner in this case and her verdict is in all likelihood already written in stone. The Kangaroo Court she is orchestrating is merely to provide the appearance of justice and due process,” the group charged.
Project Veritas said the “ISIS Three” from the university would be witnesses “despite their support for the internationally recognized terrorist organization ISIS” and Laura would not be allowed to present witnesses.
The school’s president, Sister Linda Bevilacqua, earlier said in a statement the “intimation or implication that our university would approve or condone the formal establishment of such a group could be regarded as not just shameful but sinful.”
In the video, Laura says: “I wanted to start a like humanitarian club on campus. Do you think the name’s OK? I mean, because I don’t want it to be like too political. Like for students, Sympathetic Students in support of the Islamic State. … I want to start fundraising efforts on campus and what I want to do is raise funds to send overseas.”
She then asks: “You know, do you think that’s OK … to call it that or what would you recommend?”
Bley mulls out loud: “It doesn’t have Barry University in there.”
But he then agrees that taking out the ISIS reference in the title might be better because of the terrorist connection.
A statement from the university said the Project Veritas story is “categorically false.”
“It is immensely hurtful to our university community, to the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, who founded and continue to sponsor Barry University, and to the international members of the Dominican Order who have suffered as a result of the violence created by ISIS.”
The school president continued: “Barry University does not and never will allow or authorize the formation of an ISIS-related humanitarian aid group on campus. There has been no formation of any such group at Barry University. No paper work requesting such an organization has ever been filed with the proper authorities at the university.”
She said the “images and video released were edited and spliced to unfairly represent the university and staff being featured.”
“It is reprehensible to think any organization would acquire video and edit in such a way as to denigrate the reputation of Barry University or its staff.”
Project Veritas stood by its work.
“Project Veritas’ video recordings at Barry University were accomplished within the spirit and letter of the law. In Florida, where Barry University is located and where the recordings took place, it is perfectly legal to record an oral communication if a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This is defined in Fla. Stat. 934.02(2),” a group spokesman explained.
“In this instance, Project Veritas recorded its operation in an open-office atrium, where office doors were open, where people were passing by in close proximity, and Barry University administrators took no steps to secure their privacy, thus, the recording is legal because it meets both statutory and case law requirements.”