Expelled for Twitter posts, former KU student fights university’s decision

A former Kansas University student is in enrollment limbo as the university continues to fight Douglas County District Judge Robert Fairchild’s ruling that KU did not have jurisdiction to expel the student for a series of berating social media posts he made about an ex-girlfriend.

Navid Yeasin, a would-be senior, was expelled and banned from the KU campus in November 2013 for violating an order not to contact an ex-girlfriend by tweeting derogatory comments about her. Yeasin filed a lawsuit against the university in early 2014, challenging the decision.

Yeasin argued that the university was not following its own rules by expelling him. KU had cited its Student Conduct Code, which states that students can be punished for policy violations that occur “while on university premises or at university sponsored or supervised events.”

Because the incidents that led to his expulsion did not occur on campus, Fairchild sided with Yeasin and ruled in September that the expulsion and ban “should be set aside.”

Now, KU’s lawyer, Sara L. Trower, has filed a motion asking the court to reconsider its ruling and to put a hold on the judge’s instruction to allow Yeasin to return to KU until it does so. In the meantime, Yeasin is not enrolled at any university as he awaits his fate.

A turbulent romance

Court documents detail the “tumultuous and at times toxic” relationship that ultimately led to Yeasin’s expulsion. At a hearing in July, Trower and Yeasin’s attorney Terence Leibold presented the following facts to Fairchild:

During the 2012-2013 school year, Yeasin dated a woman while they were both KU students. On July 1 of last year, Yeasin drove his now ex-girlfriend around in his car in Olathe during a fight, took her phone and allegedly wouldn’t let her out of his car.

When Yeasin eventually released her and returned her phone, his ex-girlfriend reported the incident to police, and the Johnson County District Attorney charged Yeasin with criminal restraint, battery and criminal deprivation of property.

To avoid the charges, Yeasin consented to an Order of Protection from Abuse, which banned him from directly or indirectly contacting his ex-girlfriend.

When the pair returned to campus that fall, the ex-girlfriend reported the incident to KU’s Institutional Opportunity and Access department. IOA sent Yeasin a letter stating they had placed a no contact order on him and he was prohibited from “any physical, verbal, electronic or written communication with (his ex-girlfriend,) her family, her friends or her associates.”

Twitter trouble

After receiving the order, Yeasin took to Twitter. Though not specifically mentioning his ex-girlfriend’s name, Yeasin made a series of derogatory posts referring to her as a “psycho,” using expletives and mocking her appearance.

Following the tweets, IOA investigator Jennifer Brooks sent a letter informing Yeasin that if he continued to reference the woman “on any type of social media” outlet, he could be expelled.

“I am writing to you to clarify that any reference made on social media regarding (her), even if the communication is not sent to her or states her name specifically, it is a violation of the no contact order,” Brooks said.

That warning did not stop Yeasin, who again took to Twitter to post about the woman.

The IOA then concluded that Yeasin had violated the university’s sexual harassment policy and his no contact order by “repeatedly posting demeaning tweets.” KU held a hearing in November 2013 and soon expelled and banned Yeasin.

‘Erroneous’ interpretation

After reviewing the information, Fairchild said that while Yeasin’s actions were disgraceful, KU did not have the authority to expel him.

“No matter how reprehensible the university may find (Yeasin’s) conduct to be, the university must follow its own rules and regulations in order to impose sanctions,” Fairchild said.

Fairchild said KU “erroneously interpreted the Student Conduct Code by applying it to conduct that occurred off-campus,” therefore the ban and expulsion should be lifted.

In the future, Fairchild said, the university may want to consider revising its policy, rather than stretching it to fit its needs.

“The university can easily change its Student Conduct Code if it wishes to prohibit off-campus student conduct,” Fairchild said.

Leibold criticized the university’s implementation of its codes.

“Their policies are not consistent,” Leibold said. “They’re a quagmire to maneuver, and who’s burned by it is students and faculty who have to comply with it.”

Yeasin’s future

Leibold said Yeasin attempted to enroll for the Spring 2015 semester after the ruling, but KU did not allow it.

Trower said that’s not the case, but it may be in the near future. Trower filed a motion last week asking Fairchild to reconsider his decision, she said.

“Currently, Navid can return to school,” Trower said. “However, we filed also a motion for stay of memorandum decision, which would ask the judge not to make a finding until post-trial motions are heard.”

Yeasin and Leibold also filed a motion asking the judge to rule that KU should reimburse Yeasin’s lost tuition.

“We didn’t think it was right to expel him and keep the tuition,” Leibold said, “especially since the court ruled the expulsion was unjustified.”

A hearing has yet to be scheduled for Fairchild to consider the new motions, according to Douglas County District Court records.