Board reverses expulsion of student punished after protesting parking garage

GEORGIA — The Board of Regents for the University System ofGeorgia on Wednesday overturned the expulsion of a student who was kicked outafter publicly protesting plans — championed by Valdosta StateUniversity’s president — for a new parking garage on campus, the student’sattorney said today.

Robert Corn-Revere, an attorney representing the student, T. Hayden Barnes,said the Board of Regents’ attorney informed him of the board’s decision in aconference call Wednesday. Corn-Revere said he had not received any officialwritten word and did not know the details of the board’s decision, includingwhether any disciplinary notations would remain on Barnes’ record. He saidBarnes, who now is enrolled at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta, wouldlike to return to Valdosta State and will decide whether to do so when he hasmore information about the board’s decision.

Valdosta State President Ronald Zaccari informed Barnes in May that Barneshad been “administratively withdrawn” after being judged a “clear and presentdanger” to the campus, although a school counselor and Barnes’ privatepsychiatrist told school officials they did not believe Barnes posed a threat orshowed any violent tendencies.

Zaccari, in labeling Barnes a threat, cited several online postings Barneshad made in his campaign against the parking garage plan, including aneditorial-cartoon-style collage Barnes posted on his Facebook profile. Thecollage featured Zaccari’s picture, among other items, and was titled the”S.A.V.E.-Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage” — a reference to a campusenvironmental group and to Barnes’ belief that Zaccari considered the parkinggarage a major part of his legacy.

Barnes last week filed a federal suit against Valdosta State, the Board ofRegents and other school officials alleging, among other claims, that theyviolated his First Amendment rights. Corn-Revere said that suit will goforward.

“It touches on broader issues than just the administrative decision,”Corn-Revere said.

Representatives for Valdosta State and the Board of Regents declined tocomment for this article.

By Michael Beder, SPLC staff writer

  • Ga. college student expelled after criticizing president’s plan files suit News Flash, 1/10/2008
  • Ga. student who protested plans for campus parking garage contesting removal News Flash, 10/26/2007