MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (Feb. 24, 2008) – After months of cancellations, postponements and delays, Central Michigan University will hold an expulsion hearing this Wednesday for the spokesman of a student group who wants Gary Peters to pick between running for Congress and working as a political science professor.
Students Against Gary Peters spokesman Dennis Lennox will face three charges for exercising his First Amendment rights by passing out copies of a student newsletter with editorial content critical of Peters on Oct. 23 when the hearing is convened at 1 p.m.CMU administrators claim he violated regulations on distributing printed materials, but they waited 34 days to notify him of the charges.
"It's clear they are doing this because I raised legitimate questions about the hiring of Gary Peters," said Lennox. "Why can't CMU resolve this situation and let me go back to focusing on my studies instead of defending myself every couple weeks against expulsion attempts?" Lennox wasn't notified of his alleged violations until Nov. 27 – the same day the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan declared the school's videotaping ban unconstitutional. The ban had been imposed after Students Against Gary Peters posted videos on YouTube, which quickly attracted national attention with over 500,000 views in a 48-hour period.Besides violating Lennox's constitutional rights with bogus expulsion proceedings, CMU Assistant Dean of Students Anthony Voisin is refusing to tell the student who will be his judge and jury.
Voisin, who runs the disciplinary process, won't reveal the name of the hearing officer, which Lennox has formally requested on two occasions. The school even denied a Freedom of Information Act request, claiming there were "no records" on who had been assigned to proceed over the hearing.
"I want to make sure the person has no conflicts of interest," said Lennox. "I want to make sure Gary Peters or one of his friends in the faculty isn't deciding my academic future."Voisin is also claiming Lennox is prohibited from videotaping or audio recording the hearing, claiming CMU regulations "does not allow for any recording except the one audio tape which the university will make of the hearing."
"This claim is ridiculous," said Lennox. "If one party to the hearing can record it, the other side can as well – it's commonsense. Does CMU have something to hide?"As spokesman of Students Against Gary Peters, Lennox testified on the controversy at a state Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education hearing Friday. He called on senators to delay any increase in funding for CMU until the situation is properly resolved. A full video recording of the testimony can be watched at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9115905305081435237&hl=en.
The CMU hearing, aimed at expelling Lennox, begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Bovee University Center.
Just to review, Gary Peters was hired for Central Michigan University's distinguished Griffin Chair. This was a controversial hire because Peters had already formed an exploratory committee to discuss running for the U.S. Congress in a district hundreds of miles away. Dennis Lennox, a junior at CMU, formed the group, Students Against Gary Peters. Lennox became a sort of watchdog of Peters and the administration's handling of the entire case. He formed alliances with numerous media and civil rights groups.
In October, Lennox had a highly controversial encounter with the Dean of Student Affairs at CMU, Dean Pamela Gates, and this confrontation wound up on You Tube. Since that incident, there is a documented pattern of increasingly heavy handed actions from the administration toward Lennox.
Tomorrow, he will be facing formal disciplinary action because of charges stemming from an incident in which he was passing out fliers in a University building. He was confronted by a member of the CMU faculty, a stranger to Lennox, and refused to divulge his own identity.
It is unclear what the administration will try and attempt to do. If Lennox is actually expelled for these suspect charges I predict the administration will face pitchforks at their offices from students, alumni, boosters, and a national audience that has grown an interest in the story.
If they only give him a slap on the wrist, the entire affair will be wasted. The administration might only suspend him or find some other punishment. I don't know what they hope to accomplish, but one thing is for sure, this story is not going away or dying and the eyes are upon their every movement.
I know one thing for certain. The punishment that the administration hands down will be significantly influenced by the outrage of the folks in prelude to it. That means everyone needs to contact all involved and let them know that intimidation of students is not acceptable...
Mr. Jeffrey R. Caponigro, chair: firstname.lastname@example.orgMs. Stephanie Comai: email@example.comMr. Brian W. Fannon: firstname.lastname@example.orgMs. Jacqueline N. Garrett: email@example.comDr. Marilyn French Hubbard: firstname.lastname@example.orgDr. Sam R. Kottamasu: email@example.comMr. John G. Kulhavi, vice chair: firstname.lastname@example.orgMs. Gail F. Torreano: email@example.comDr. Michael Rao: (989) 774-3131, firstname.lastname@example.org