President Retaliated Against Timothy McGettigan for Criticizing Proposed Cuts, Alleging Financial Mismanagement
DENVER, January 14, 2015 – A professor at Colorado State University-Pueblo filed a federal civil rights suit today against Colorado State University President Lesley DiMare and CSUS Board of Governors for violating his 1st Amendment freedoms by cutting off his email access in the midst of a pitched debate over proposed budget cuts.
Professor Timothy McGettigan, a sociology professor, opposed a plan to fire 50 people to make up for an alleged $3.3 million budget shortfall, charging that the shortfall was due to mismanagement by university administrators, and not due to a lack of resources. He also alleged that the CSU-P budget plan was part of an overall drive to favor whiter and wealthier constituencies at other campuses. McGettigan used email to help mobilize the university community to peacefully protest the proposed layoffs.
“On January 17, 2014, when public attention to this issue was at its peak because of a town hall meeting to be held on the CSU-P campus that day, Defendant DiMare shut down Professor McGettigan’s email and computer access,” says the suit. “To this day, Defendant DiMare continues to block Professor McGettigan’s ability to send any e-mail to groups of people in the CSU-P community.” The suit further alleges that CSU-P’s computer access policy violates the constitutional rights to free speech and due process because it allows university administrators to arbitrarily shut down speech based on content it deems “offensive.”
The suit also alleges that, as an excuse to shut down McGettigan’s speech, DiMare defamed him by falsely stating that McGettigan threatened violence in his emails. But the content of his emails repeatedly and explicitly called for non-violent protest:
- In a January 15, 2014 email, he encouraged readers to “bring your dancing shoes [to a forthcoming protest]. ‘Cause we are gonna be dancing in the streets once we (peacefully and civilly) send Michael Martin and his wantonly-destructive CSU System packing.”
- In a January 16, 2014 email, he encouraged readers to attend “two extremely important peaceful protest events today and tomorrow.”
- In a January 17, 2014 email, he pointed out the class and racial aspects of the struggle, referring to the CSU-P community as “the Children of Ludlow.” Ludlow, Colorado was the scene of an infamous 1914 massacre of unarmed, striking coal miners by the Colorado National Guard and private security forces employed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s Colorado Fuel & Iron Company.
At none of the protests promoted by McGettigan was there any violence or threats of violence.
Professor McGettigan is represented by attorneys Dan Twetten and Elizabeth Wang of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law. A copy of the suit, Timothy McGettigan v. Lesley DiMare, et al., No. 15-CV-97 is available here.