Last year, Adams State University film professor Danny Ledonne wasn’t selected for a tenure track position, so he filed a series of open records requests about the school’s hiring practices, posting the information on his website WatchingAdams.org.
The site listed disparities between faculty and administrative salaries, alleged violations of wage laws and articles critical of the school. But instead of investigating Ledonne’s concerns, the state school in October threatened him with arrest if he came on ASU’s Alamosa, Colo., campus.
Ledonne, with the help of attorneys from the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union who asked him not to comment on the ban while the case was pending, sued last week, saying the school violated his rights and state law.
“In banning Mr. Ledonne from campus, Defendants deprived Mr. Ledonne of his constitutional right to due process and a name-clearing hearing,” the Feb. 10 complaint filed in federal court charges. “Mr. Ledonne was deprived of his constitutional right to notice of the allegations and a meaningful opportunity to contest the false allegations that were purportedly the basis for Defendants’ adverse actions.”
School officials, who also declined comment on the ban because of pending litigation, contended in a statement that Ledonne was barred because he was threatening and disruptive, though the only concrete examples they cite is Ledonne’s creation of a post-Columbine mass shooting video game and that he protested the decision not to hire him.
“Ledonne continued to vocalize his displeasure with this decision and has become disruptive to the campus staff, administration and board of trustees,” wrote ASU police chief Paul Grohowski, who is named as a defendant along with ASU president Beverlee J. McClure, in an open letter to the campus. “Fact: Mr. Ledonne took his protest to former President Svaldi in mid-2015 and again dissatisfied with the university’s decision not to hire him, began to harass members of the Svaldi family on social media sites.”
The lawsuit maintains Ledonne never harassed anyone on campus or threatened violence.
“At no time did Mr. Ledonne ever express any opinions or make any statements that could be considered even remotely physically threatening or violent toward anyone or anything at Adams State University,” the lawsuit says.
Grohowski wrote that in the current atmosphere he had to act despite the First Amendment.
“In this post-Columbine, hypersensitive world of mass shootings and violence on college campus’ nationwide, it is my duty to balance the free speech and individual rights against the public safety of the many,” the letter said.
In court records, Ledonne contends the ban interferes with his contract work on campus and work on a film festival he directed. His attorneys cited a 1973 Colorado Supreme Court decision that public campus facilities should be open to the public.