Ualbany Fall 2023 Calendar – 1 of 3 UAlbany teaching assistants protest on campus during a fall preview day for prospective students and their parents on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Albany, NY. Graduate students say the university takes money out of their salaries. Student fee. After a similar protest in October 2022, he filed a federal lawsuit alleging the university violated his First Amendment rights.
2 of 3 UAlbany teaching assistants protest on campus during a fall preview day for prospective students and their parents on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Albany, NY. Graduate students say the university takes money out of their salaries. Student fee. After a similar protest in October 2022, he filed a federal lawsuit alleging the university violated his First Amendment rights.
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ALBANY — A University at Albany graduate student says a top administrator grabbed her and yelled at her when she used a megaphone during a protest, prompting a federal lawsuit against the university alleging First Amendment violations.
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In the lawsuit filed Jan. 11, Amy Zimmerman alleges that Vice President for Finance and Administration Todd Foreman grabbed her arm and yelled that she could not use a megaphone during an Oct. 15 protest on campus against graduate student tuition fees. She alleged that the university initiated disciplinary action against her when she filed the complaint.
UAlbany said in a statement that the lawsuit “contains numerous inaccuracies and misrepresentations,” without identifying or explaining them. Federal student privacy laws prevent the administration from discussing student conduct procedures, but UAlbany takes allegations of retaliation seriously and investigates all.
Forman and U Albany Police Chief Paul Burlingham could not be reached Monday. Zimmerman’s lawsuit says Burlingame also confronted her. UAlbany spokesman Jordan Carlio-Evangelist said comment was limited to a campus statement.
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According to a university disciplinary report included in the lawsuit, UAlbany defended its actions by saying there were “time, manner and place limitations in our free speech policy” that would allow it to regulate the use of amplification devices such as megaphones. .
Graduating students marched across campus with megaphones during the Homecoming pregame event. But after he sang directly to UAlbany President Havidon Rodriguez, Burlingame told Zimmerman to stop using the megaphone, according to the lawsuit.
The students turned off the megaphone but decided to leave after half an hour and used the megaphone again as they left. The case was told when two administrators walked past tents where alumni and administration had gathered. According to the lawsuit, Foreman and Burlingame “physically restrained Ms. Zimmerman, pinning her between them so she could not move.”
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Foreman grabbed her shoulder, and they both yelled at her to stop using the megaphone, according to the lawsuit.
After the incident, Zimmerman was summoned to a disciplinary hearing and given a written warning, which will remain on her file through the spring 2023 semester. A second incident during the semester will result in a more severe punishment, according to the inquiry.
The protest is part of a two-year union campaign to scrap student fees that require graduate students to work as part of their studies.
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“On the one hand we are told that we are students, so we have to pay this student fee. On the other hand, we are employees,” Zimmerman said in an interview. “Then they charge us this fee because they expect us to pay from our stipend, because we’re not expected to work outside the university, that’s part of our contract.”
The lawsuit does not seek a specific monetary amount, but seeks compensation for Zimmerman for lost wages, mental anguish and emotional distress.