by Jamie Hale
More details are coming out about the federal lawsuit filed against Idaho State University, and it isn’t looking any less messy.
In addition to their formal complaint, the Faculty Association for the Preservation of the First Amendment also filed for a court order to force the university to allow access to the Facultymemos listserv until the U.S. District Court can hear the full case.
The temporary restraining order, as it’s called, will be decided at a March 2 hearing at Pocatello’s District Courthouse at 3:30 p.m. The hearing might give an interesting preview into the case. If the federal judge grants the motion, it could give the faculty association some early momentum, especially in public opinion.
This whole case is over use of campus email listserv Facultymemos, which is an open communication system available to all faculty members. In November access to the listserv was revoked from leading members of the Provisional Faculty Senate, just as they were seeking faculty approval of a new draft of their constitution and bylaws.
After revoking access, Barbara Adamcik, Interim Provost and Vice President of academic affairs, continued to use the same listserv to email faculty the university-sanctioned version of the constitution, and other faculty members continued to use it for their own purposes. While the terms of service for the campus-wide email system gives the university the ability to revoke access, the rules say it must follow due process procedures. According to the faculty group, ISU never followed those procedures.
The group alleges that since ISU is a state institution, the revocation is a denial of their First and 14th Amendment rights.
Rolberto Coulter, the lawyer for the group, said the temporary restraining order shouldn’t be any kind of burden on the university, as the listserv is a free service and granting access comes with no costs. He said he finds the whole case astounding. “It is amazing that it has come to this, where somebody has had to bring a federal lawsuit to use an email server they have been using all along,” said Coulter.
ISU has remained mum on the topic so far, only issuing a two-sentence statement yesterday that said the university has not been served with any complaint and that they will respond in due course.
They will have to take a position soon enough, as the scheduled March 2 hearing on the temporary restraining order is fast approaching. The case will be heard by Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who, interestingly enough, is a 1974 graduate of Idaho State University.
Contact Jamie at JHaleTBA@gmail.com