Free speech voided at Oakland University
They’re coming for you next: The Oakland University (OU), a public college in Michigan, has punished student Inara Ramazanova because she had the nerve to describe to others how she had gotten a religious exemption from its mandate that all students get COVID shots or be banned from campus.
From the warning letter [pdf] sent to the university by her lawyers, the First Liberty Institute:
Last summer, OU granted Ms. Ramazanova a religious accommodation from the university’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The accommodation would have allowed her to reside on campus for the 2021–22 academic year.
However, OU evicted Ms. Ramazanova after it deemed her protected, religious speech, which Ms. Ramazanova intended to aid others in the exercise of their rights, to be “collusion or conspiracy” under the OU’s Code of Conduct for sharing about COVID-19 religious accommodations in a private Facebook group. OU’s decision forced Ms. Ramazanova to spend her final semester at OU living at home and attending classes online while participating in OU-required weekly COVID-19 testing on campus.
OU also placed a disciplinary record in her student file maintained by the Dean of Students’ office, which will remain there for approximately the next seven years and potentially affect her future academic or professional pursuits. This conduct violated Ms. Ramazanova’s rights under the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment and the Fair Housing Act.
In other words, she was evicted for saying something, in “a private Facebook group,” that university officials didn’t like.
At the moment all Ramazanova is demanding is a public apology and her record cleared. If the university does not do so, she and First Liberty are prepared to sue for damages. The article at the first link above notes that if that suit goes to court, Ramazanova stands an excellent chance of winning, noting that the courts have “repeatedly found public universities responsible for First Amendment violations in cases on religious and political speech and COVID vaccine mandates.”
This story has one additional note of great irony, since Ramazanova and her family fled Russia thirteen years ago and came to the U.S. in the hope of finding freedom of speech and religion. Unfortunately, the new America she came to is increasingly run by the same kind of thugs and goons that run Russia. That she needs to go to court to defend her right to free speech against a university is appalling.
Also, Oakland is a public university, and last year received [pdf] more than $50 million in state funding. It seems to me that the legislature should reconsider that funding, since the university is clearly not dedicated to open debate, free speech, and educating its students on both.
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