Barry University Suspends Student for Video

Laura Loomer, a student at Barry University, was suspended on Monday. Her crime? Embarrassing the university, by recording an undercover video for James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas in which she duped employees into expressing support for her forming a pro-ISIS student group.

What Loomer did was sleazy and dishonest. She took advantage of the fact that most people don’t recognize the ISIS name when it’s spelled out (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), tossed around the desire to offer “humanitarian” help, and then dishonestly publicized the secret recording of an informal conversation as evidence of university support for a terrorist group. She deserves condemnation for her actions.

But it was not a violation of Barry University’s code of conduct, and it should be protected free speech. Whistleblowers need to be protected from retaliation even when their accusations are garbage.

On Monday, Barry University sent a letter to Loomer declaring, “your alleged actions were the cause root of disruption of the University community and the creation of a hostile environment for members of the University staff. Because these alleged actions violate Barry University’s Code of Conduct, effective immediately you are placed on Interim Suspension from Barry University.”

There are two major problems with this: Barry University’s Code of Conduct does not allow interim suspensions for these reasons, and Loomer’s conduct does not meet the standards of disruption or a hostile environment.

First, the Code of Conduct declares: “The University reserves the right to exercise its authority of interim suspension upon notification that a student is facing criminal investigation and/or complaint (additional grounds for interim suspension are outline further in this section).” However, the Code offers no additional grounds for interim suspension other than “if a danger to the community is posed.” Loomer faces no criminal investigation (and even if she were, she poses no danger to anyone that would justify a suspension without due process.

Second, the Code says about “Disruptive Behavior”: “Substantial disruption of University operations including obstruction of teaching, research, administration, other University activities, and/or other authorized non-University activities which occur on campus.” Nothing Loomer did obstructed any University activities. Bad publicity is not disruptive behavior.

Third, the Code says that a hostile environment is a type of harassment, which must be “based on actual or perceived status including: sex, gender, race, color, age, creed, national or ethnic origin, physical or mental disability, veteran status, pregnancy status, religion, sexual orientation or other protected status.” There is no such as thing a ban on “hostile environments” in general, and no one has alleged Loomer’s video was based on any of these categories. Even if Loomer had been motivated by a hateful attack on someone’s protected status, it is difficult to see how a student would have the power to create a discriminatory working environment for employees when she has no authority over anyone.

Barry University does have a horribly written speech code designed to give them the authority to expel any student they want to for expressing ideas the administration dislikes. The harassment regulation is part of a broader catchall “social justice” regulation that allows the administration to expel students for not “respecting the dignity” of anyone else. But this rule, in addition to being impossibly vague, was not invoked by Barry University as the reason to punish Loomer.

Barry University is free to condemn Loomer for her deceptive video, and they have done that. But Loomer must be free to criticize her university, even if she is wrong, without being punished.

8 thoughts on “Barry University Suspends Student for Video

  1. I’d go on step further. Reverse her suspension and then call the Department of Homeland Security, DOJ, and the FBI. Charge her with giving aid and comfort to the enemy and charge that other cavity, James O’Keefe with the same. I’m tired of reading about him and his assorted crimes under the guise of journalism. Wonder if he finally paid off that 20K harassment judgment?

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/03/22/1076882/-The-James-O-Keefe-fun-factory-begins-to-implode

  2. Hundreds of threatening phone calls and emails from right wing nut jobs who believe everything they read online as gospel is not disruption? Dangerous? Illegally videotaping inside campus offices? Freedom of speech does not allow someone to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater, which is what this was. Not to mention careers ruined. All so she can become the next Ann Coulter? I am sorry Barry did not expel her!

    • Threats are certainly disruptive, but Loomer didn’t make any threats. And we don’t hold the media responsible who publicize a story if it leads to threats; we blame the people who make the threats. Falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater is restricted because it’s the equivalent of pulling a fire alarm. Loomer did nothing like that. Illegal videotaping might be punishable, but Loomer hasn’t been charged with that, and it’s not the basis for this suspension.

  3. I agree that the university’s code of conduct is vague and does not, as cited, seem to justify the student’s suspension.

    But this seems very clearly an ideologically motivated prank rather than something that deserves to be called “journalism” and cloaked in the protections afforded to the press.

    Just because something is posted online and disseminated as if it were news does not make it news. This is really an attempt to manufacture rather than to report or even uncover “news.”

    So, I agree with the earlier comment on the disruption caused by this prank. In fact, it seems very obvious that the intention was pointedly to incite abuse against those who were targeted because that is the only way that this manufactured incident would become “news.”

    I am not sure, however, if it is more damaging to the student’s case if those who were targeted were randomly or purposely targeted.

  4. Im not surprised the majority here are calling for the suspension or Homeland Security’s involvement. Since this is a Leftist blog for the Lefties to extrapolate their opinions against an individual who exposed the ilks of their kind in this Progressive leaning University.
    The mere fact that the University has such individuals in both a teaching level and students, staff that believe in rendering aid to a homocidal group such as an ISIS organization is sickening.
    The Cancer in this country is in Academia and the Media,with their Leftist Ideology which solely seeks to destroy what this country was founded on. I’m sure your Comrade Obama feels much like yourselves about this young lady.

    • Al, no one is advocating “rendering aid to a homocidal [sic] group such as an ISIS organization.” You can claim that as a fact, as you do, but it is not one. You can’t make it one simply by wanting it to be true.

  5. My, admittedly limited understanding is that the above article elides two relatively important points:

    1) Barry University is a private, not a public institution

    2) Florida is a two-party consent state for wiretapping law (see http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/florida-recording-law for a useful discussion) meaning that unless the recording fell within one of the loopholes, what she did was in fact illegal and you can usually be expelled for illegal behavior.

    I am not a lawyer and the above is not legal advice.

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