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Idaho Profs Say University Muzzles Them

POCATELLO, Idaho (CN) - Idaho State University is unconstitutionally blocking emails to and from a professors union on the college's "faculty-wide email listserv," the professors' association claims in Federal Court.

The Idaho State University Faculty Association for the Preservation of the First Amendment sued Idaho State University, its President Arthur C. Vailas, and interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Barbara Adamcik.

"Through censorship and denial of access, defendants have prevented plaintiff's members and members of the Provisional Faculty Senate from utilizing a faculty-wide email listserv to propagate messages related to work of the PFS on behalf of the faculty," the complaint states.

According to the complaint, the Idaho State Board of Education on Feb. 17, 2011 voted to suspend the Idaho State Faculty Senate after it issued a vote of "no confidence" in President Vailas.

On April 21, 2011, the State Board of Education authorized a new Provisional Faculty Senate, whose bylaws and new constitution would need approval from the university president and the State Board.

By November 2011, messages sent from Provisional Faculty Senate Chairman Philip Cole to PFS members were being blocked, the complaint states.

"According to the minutes of the December 12, 2011 regular meeting of the PFS, a motion was made by [Provisional Faculty Senator] Mikle Ellis and seconded by David Delehanty to inform all faculty of a recent decision by the Idaho Supreme Court (Sadid v. Idaho State University, 151 Idaho 932, 265 P.3d 1144 (November 30, 2011) as it impacted the ability of all Idaho state employees to make public statements as individuals under the protection of the First Amendment if (1) it is not a part of their official duties and (2) it is a matter of public concern," the professors say.

Cole says that PFS vice chairman David Delehanty was unable to send an email to faculty members about an upcoming vote on the proposal for a new constitution. Cole says he emailed Adamcik to seek permission to send an email to faculty about voting procedures for the new constitution.

He says Adamcik never responded by email, so he asked her in person if she would approve his request to send the email.

"Defendant Adamcik denied Philip Cole permission to use Facultymemos to distribute the Idaho Supreme Court decision on protected speech to the faculty," the complaint states.

"Mikle Ellis then asked defendant Adamcik if she was actually going to block a message on free speech.

"Defendant Adamcik responded that yes she was."

But Cole says that Adamcik has used the university server to disseminate her own messages on the Provisional Faculty Senate and the draft of its new constitution.

"On January 31, 2012, despite blocking access to Facultymemos to the PFS and Philip Cole for use in disseminating information to all faculty regarding the draft constitution, defendant Adamcik utilized the Facultymemos listserve to send out her own message to all faculty regarding feedback received from the various colleges, at her behest, on the November 7 draft constitution, and to send out the administration's sanctioned draft version of the constitution," the complaint states. The professors seek court costs, a restraining order and injunction prohibiting the university and its officials from violating the First Amendment.

They are represented by Ron Coulter with the Camacho, Mendoza, Coulter Law Group, of Eagle, Idaho.

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