Ga. student who protested plans for campus parking garage contesting removal

GEORGIA — A Valdosta State University student who was removedfrom campus after the school’s president declared him a “clear andpresent danger” will take his appeal to Georgia’s Office of StateAdministrative Hearings, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education saidWednesday in a press release.

Following a public campaign against the construction of a new parkinggarage on campus, student T. Hayden Barnes received a letter in May fromUniversity President Ronald Zaccari notifying him of “administrativewithdrawal” from the university.

The letter claimed Barnes posed a “clear and present danger” toZaccari and the campus and required Barnes to seek therapy from a non-universityappointed psychiatrist before he could be readmitted. The letter also requiredthat Barnes continue counseling during his stay at the university.

In March, VSU’s student newspaper published an article aboutuniversity plans to construct a $30 million parking garage using student feemoney. Barnes, an environmental activist, posted fliers around campus outliningpossible alternatives. Barnes also e-mailed Zaccari, the Board of Regents andstudent governing bodies expressing his concern.

After receiving word Zaccari was upset about the fliers, Barnes removedthem.

Barnes continued his campaign against the parking garage in April. He wrotea column in the school’s newspaper critical of the proposed parkinggarage, and he wrote a letter to Zaccari asking to be exempted from the studentfee slated to fund the garage. He also posted a collage on his Facebook pagethat included an image of Zaccari. The collage was critical of the president,implying the new building was an effort to cement the administrator’slegacy at the university.

The collage was titled “S.A.V.E. – Zaccari Memorial ParkingDeck” and featured slogans such as “No Blood for Oil” and”More Smog.”

In response to the Facebook posting, Zaccari consulted with campus policeand began having plainclothes police officers accompany him to high-profileevents for the duration of the semester, according to VSU’s statement ofappeal.

Barnes appealed his removal, stating that Zaccari did not follow theuniversity’s published procedures for due process in removing a studentand did not name a disciplinary charge on which his removal was based. In hisappeal, Barnes stated he had complied with the requirements set byZaccari’s letter and should be reinstated as a student, and he evenpromised to refrain from further political activity while a student at theuniversity.

Barnes also contacted FIRE for assistance in his case.

In his appeal, Barnes said he was unaware his actions were perceived byZaccari as a physical threat, noting that in his communication with Zaccariprior to being removed, the president did not make his feelings known.

Barnes’ appeal was sent to the university’s board of regents,who then referred the case to the state. Barnes since has decided not to returnto VSU and instead will enroll at Kennesaw State University beginning with theupcoming spring semester, but he is seeking to have VSU reimburse him for movingexpenses and the additional cost of attending Kennesaw. A hearing before anadministrative judge is set for Nov. 26.

Barnes declined to comment to the Student Press Law Center on the advice ofhis legal counsel.

The office of the president at Valdosta also declined to comment aboutdetails of the case to the SPLC.