Thursday, October 28, 2004

Housing directors have no sense of humor 

FIRE is supporting Timothy Garneau, who's living in his car near the University of New Hampshire after being tossed out of his dorm. What did he do? "Frustrated by students who would take the elevator rather than the stairs for short distances, he posted fliers in his dormitory joking that women could lose the �Freshman 15� and shorten elevator wait times by using the stairs," says FIRE's president David French. The flier is here. Students were offended and the flyers taken down in less than two hours.
When Garneau was approached by the Stoke Hall Director and accused of hanging the fliers, he initially denied responsibility, fearing that he would be punished harshly and embarrassed in front of his peers. However, Garneau soon admitted to posting the flier and was charged with offenses including: �acts of dishonesty�; violation of �affirmative action� policies; �harassment�; and �conduct which is disorderly, lewd.�

Within a week of the incident, and prior to his hearing, Garneau posted a written public apology for unintentionally offending others in his residential hall and apologized in person to students that he knew had complained.

At an October 8 hearing, the university found Garneau guilty of all charges. Despite
Garneau�s offers to voluntarily atone for his actions through community service, social awareness projects, and other activities, the university sentenced him to immediate expulsion from student housing and disciplinary probation extended through May 30, 2006. He was also required to meet with a counselor to discuss his �decisions, actions, and reflections� about the incident, to write a 3000-word reflection paper about the counseling session, and to submit an apology letter to the residents of Stoke Hall to be published in the hall�s newspaper.
Durham's a nice place with good housing near campus, so Garneau will have a home soon. But the outsized reaction to what could be no more than a minor infraction is noteworthy. If Garneau had only dressed up like a freshman with 15 extra pounds...