A defeat of tyranny

Former college president gets a $50,000 lesson in freedom

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No one in the world loves freedom as much as Americans do. And perhaps no one in the world is in such a position to take it for granted.

God help us if we do.

A court case out of Valdosta last month illustrates that, in a most glorious fashion. A federal jury ordered former Valdosta State University President Ronald M. Zaccari to personally pay $50,000 in damages to a student he expelled without notice or redress – or actual cause.

The student, Hayden Barnes, had irritated the imperious Zaccari in 2007 by publicly and repeatedly – but utterly peacefully and lawfully, with letters, emails, fliers and web postings – protesting the president’s
plans for a parking garage on campus.

Without so much as a double-secret probation, Zaccari unilaterally had Barnes “administratively withdrawn.” No notice, no hearing, no due process whatsoever. And no law or ethics to back him up.

It was as if this public university were Zaccari’s kingdom, and he the sovereign.

Thankfully, the state Board of Regents reversed Zaccari’s unlawful act in 2008 – and the courts have brought further justice.

This case is highly notable and crucially important – which puts it one notch below “landmark” – for several reasons.

First, it reasserts freedom on college campuses.

Imagine having to do that. Baby boomers and their elders remember well the fiery anti-war and anti-discrimination protests in the 1960s, many of the best of which erupted on college campuses. Back then, institutions of higher learning were considered bastions of freedom and free speech.

Not today, when “speech codes” and tyrannical administrators try to stifle freedom of thought and speech – and even punish students for exercising those basic constitutional rights.

The case also happily punishes this autocrat personally – meaning he, not the taxpayer, is responsible for the $50,000.

That doesn’t happen near enough for our taste.

“College administrators have been blatantly and willfully violating student rights for decades, but they have far too often dodged personal responsibility. Not so today,” declared Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which represented Barnes. “We hope this serves as a much-needed wake-up call to college administrators that it’s time to start paying close attention to the basic rights of their students.”

The case also should serve as a splash of cold water in the face of any college administrator who thinks he can rule with an iron fist and violate constitutional and civil rights. We would simply ask them: What’s in your wallet?

At bottom, this is a defeat of tyranny. Zaccari ludicrously argued that Barnes’ activism presented a “clear and present danger” to him and Valdosta State. The only clear and present danger was to our freedoms, and Zaccari was the one who posed it.

The only question is how anyone under him at Valdosta State was able to rationalize going along with Zaccari and carrying out his contemptible anti-American acts.

Each one of them ought to pony up voluntarily and double the $50,000 going to the student.

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Bodhisattva 03/09/13 - 08:15 am
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education?

Named by a Frank Luntz focus group? Right wing billionaires fighting for your right to harass gays and use racial slurs against minorities.

Riverman1 03/09/13 - 09:04 am
Local Similarity

Bodhisattva, I think you missed the thesis of the editorial. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education was on Barnes’ side against the university president who kicked him out because he didn’t like the criticism. Where this get’s tricky is what if we had a hypothetical situation of a university president who made poor decisions that the paid staff of the university voiced their disagreements with? He could punish or fire them for some nebulous reason while everyone knew the real reason. If that type of management is known by the school employees, would they dare voice their criticism? Think that’s happening anywhere around here?

Jon Lester
Jon Lester 03/09/13 - 09:32 am
So the Regents sobered up enough to actually do something

other than vote another 12% annual tuition increase or name a university for themselves. I guess that's how you know a university president has done something especially egregious.

deestafford 03/09/13 - 09:34 am
You hit the nail on the head

It's too bad there are not more newspaper editorial staffs who have the "follow the Constitution" view this paper does.

Humble Angela
Humble Angela 03/09/13 - 10:15 am
"Right wing billionaires

"Right wing billionaires fighting for your right to harass gays and use racial slurs against minorities."

So freedom of speech doesn't apply if you offend someone now?

glukianoff 03/09/13 - 02:35 pm
"Bodhisattva" should read up a little

I am the head of FIRE cited in the article, but I just cannot resist commenting on "Bodhisattva"'s knee jerk reaction to the article. I wonder if the ironically-self-named commenter knows that he is sneering at a case involving a Buddhist student who was objecting to a parking garage on environmental grounds. This shouldn't matter, as free speech SHOULD belong to all (even people Bodhisattva dislikes), but given that the Bodhisattva immediately assumes this must be a "right wing" plot I suspect those details would matter to him. Read up on the case a little: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-lukianoff/breaking-federal-jury-fin_b... This is also funny to me as I have just written a book on the lousy state of discourse in this country and of all of the "cheap dodges" to meaningful debate used today, accusing people you dislike of being on the "wrong" side of political spectrum is probably the cheapest.

burninater 03/09/13 - 03:41 pm
Excellent post glukianoff.

Excellent post glukianoff. You should be advised, however, that Huffington Post links are immediately dismissed by many in these fora as untrustworthy sources. They are on the "wrong" side of the political spectrum, and therefore have an agenda that cannot be trusted. Obscure blogs with eagles and flags in the header and unsourced "facts" are far more trustworthy, especially if they invoke grand conspiracies involving Kenya, Saul Alinsky, and Caliphates. This isn't a "cheap dodge" however, it's vigilance in the face of creeping Socialist dictatorship seeking to destroy America! Oh, avoid any and all academic research as well -- they're in on the plot too (unless they confirm the plot, then they are a-okay)!

Just thought you may want to know the ground rules as a new poster. There are some one-of-a-kind evidenciary rules around here (necessarily, of course, as the standard bases of weighing evidence and testimony have been established by the liberal academic conspiracy to discredit and crush dissent by the True Americans).

Hmm, that's strange, now that I think about about it, what other sociopolitical movements demanded censure of journalists and academics? Hmmm ...

Riverman1 03/09/13 - 04:25 pm
"Hmm, that's strange, now

"Hmm, that's strange, now that I think about about it, what other sociopolitical movements demanded censure of journalists and academics? "

Censure??? I believe you got it wrong. The conservative people want MORE journalistic questioning, not less. What current movement group of Americans have sought more questioning of government? :)

justthefacts 03/09/13 - 04:58 pm
Oh Yeah

glukianof, Burn forget to mention that anything on FAUX News is to be ignored. I know Burn meant to mentioned it. Not to would have been a tad hypocritical.

Darby 03/09/13 - 07:10 pm
Justthefacts - You might have also mentioned.....

that anyone who professes a Christian perspective is to be ignored as some sort of nut who bases his/her life on a myth. Another oversight I guess...

KasparHauser 03/10/13 - 03:54 pm
Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain...

"Censure??? I believe you got it wrong. The conservative people want MORE journalistic questioning, not less."

ESPECIALLY as long as the answers are:

- Obama was born in Kenya
- Obama is a Muslim
- There were WMDs in Iraq
- The income tax is unconstitutional
- Tail Gunner Joe was a true patriot
- FDR was the Anti-Christ
- Trump isn't a jerk who's apparently given orangutans a bad name

ad nauseum.

That's the definition of a Conservative; same old answers, same old failures.

Oh, and for the other people who want to be taken seriously, show us how christianity isn't a myth by furnishing any scientifically-accepted, REAL, PHYSICAL EVIDENCE, aside from how effective christian drones are at killing infidels. Especially something that won't provoke a horselaugh from the True Believer crowd if, by chance, the same personal assertion had been made, but disguised as coming from a Muslim, Jewish, or [insert your comic book hero here].

One person's Martyr is another person's Apostate.

JenArthur 03/12/13 - 04:22 pm

College campuses were once bastions for free speech and activism. Today, academia appears to be more interested in protecting its own assets than in encouraging critical thinking among staff and students. College students should matriculate in an environment that fosters creative and independent thought, not one that dictates they had better not question authority or they will be sorry. When the “common folk” lose their ability to question, critique, and criticize those in positions of power, they are definitely on the pathway to tyranny. Good on the jury for reaching this particular verdict in this case.

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