VSU Student Expelled After Speaking Out Against President

By: Sean Lavin Email
By: Sean Lavin Email

Hayden Barnes is passionate about the environment. He says students should rely less on cars so global warming can be stopped.

So when two new parking garages were proposed on VSU's campus, he started speaking out, saying the money for the garages could be better spent elsewhere.

He wrote letters to his campus paper, posted fliers and a picture on Facebook saying so, but was expelled from school after doing it.

"[The expulsion letter] stated I was a clear and present danger to the campus because of these activities." Barnes said.

The Facebook photo suggests the garage be named in VSU President Ronald Zacarri's memory.

"I guess because [Barnes] says memorial, that refers to death often, so I guess [Zacarri] is saying that he thought this guy was going to attack him - but he didn't really attack him he just put some pictures up," said student Aurora Mintz.

Barnes says it wasn't a threat, but a message to show how Zacarri will be remembered by students. Most students agreed.

"I don't see anything threatening about this," said student Andrew Marriage. "He just put a bunch of pictures together."

"I think the president crossed the line with expelling him," added VSU student Ravan Ross.

Barnes says he was given no hearing and expelled without the chance to defend himself, something he finds outrageous when men his age are fighting in Iraq.

"W have certain rights in this country and people are dying for those rights and people have died," Barnes said. "And to be shut out of the system like this and told to be quiet is very disheartening and very frustrating."

We asked President Zacarri to explain his side, but he declined our request to go on camera. He did confirm that this legal battle is ongoing, however.

This battle has made its way all the way to Atlanta where the State Board of Regents asked an administrative law judge to hold a hearing to determine if Barnes' rights were violated.

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  • by Tony Location: Augusta on Dec 18, 2007 at 08:35 AM
    (part 2) Next thing is, since when did Valdosta state become a dictatorship? Let me tell you what this is about. This is not about safety or threats or any of that stuff. This is about an ego, which just about every staff member of VSU have, from the professors on up. Zaccari, being the high and mighty president, didn't see fit to be critized by a lowly student, who he feels is beneath him. So he decided to flex his power to show all how much of a god he is, never realizing the public attention the situation might bring. Now after all this attention has been gained, he probably wished he had done things differently and that's probably the reason for the sudden retirement! He may have also underestimated the student's influence or ablity because of his age. This is a common mistake with college personnel. The students are the customers of the university, but the personnel act as if the students are there for them, instead of vice versa! That's the reason I left! Much luck Hayden!
  • by Tony Location: Emetu on Dec 18, 2007 at 08:26 AM
    I can write an entire book on this situation!! I don't attend VSU anymore, and my last year was in 2005. I do believe very highly that something should be done about the parking down there and I thought parking decks were the answer. However, this student has the write to his opinion! I may have to use two posting spaces for this one! Let's look at the situation. First off, living in an age where most people his age are more interested in MTV, rap, and drugs, this guy is dedicating himself to a worthwhile cause. The school should be proud to have him there! Secondly, this entire situation is over some pictures on facebook, which means the president would have had to go searching for this so called threat! Thirdly, if he felt it was a threat why didn't he call the police and if it was that serious of a threat, why did he even give the student 48 hours! I don't know about you, but if I feel that someone may be about to take my life, I want distance from them immediately!
  • by Ashley Location: Valdosta on Oct 19, 2007 at 02:05 PM
    If Zaccari really felt this student was a "clear and present danger," he'd have called the police, not slid a letter under the student's door with a 48-hour notice to move out of the dorms. Zaccari's actions are ridiculous, and they should not stand. Every Blazer should be deeply embarrased by Zaccari's bad leadership.
  • by Tiffany Location: Valdosta on Oct 12, 2007 at 07:59 AM
    I feel as if this situation could have been handled a lot better. I saw Hayden's flyers, and I felt the same way he did. I seriously don't believe we need those parking decks. One reason and Hayden I hope you bring this up is the fact that last year 20 student cars were broken into in the Sustella Parking lot. Next, I can't remember the ezxact amount but a few students were held a gun point and robbed in Sustella parking lot, and there have been a few incidences in Oak St. as well. If the student especially women are not safe on a single level how are they going to protect us on a multi-level deck. I often times see the police patrolling, but in my opinion it's not frequent enough. Hayden, I do believe you could have handled this a lot better and I know that you know that now that you have been expelled. I feel as if President Zaccari is not involved in the lives of the students enough for him to honestly know that the students want for this school to make it better.
  • by Yanqui Location: GA on Oct 9, 2007 at 07:31 PM
    Dr. Zaccari has no sense of humor and an incredibly thin skin--two fatal flaws for anyone in a leadership position. Enforcing the most extreme sanction possible against a student for using the electronic free expression medium for its intended purpose is unconscionable. His unconstitutional abuse of the "clear and present danger" clause is a real freshman error. I wish Hayden would update us, because there is a rumor that he is now a student at another university in the USG system. If they accepted him, they must have concluded he was not a danger, and that's very telling. There is a totalitarian regime in charge at VSU. To insist on 100% loyalty from your lieutenants is one thing, to expect it from students implies a fundamental lack of appreciation for the mission of a university. This guy's is in the wrong job and in way over his head.
  • by Chance Location: Valdosta on Oct 6, 2007 at 08:47 AM
    Zaccari has proven himself time and again to not have any idea how to appropriate funds, deal with students, interact with the public and the media, or support cooperation between departments and extracurricular organizations. Now he shows beyond any doubt that he has no respect for the student body, the freedom of speech, and the system of education. As many people have been saying for years now, Zaccari has no place at Valdosta State. And I agree with anyone and everyone that will say something to the effect that his only desires are to build and add on in an effort to be "remembered" as a university president who "did something." But spending state funds and student tuitions on buildings and sidewalks that the university has functioned just fine without for 100 years is NOT "doing something for the university." A construction foreman is just as responsible for those "contributions" as the university president. This expulsion is indicative of the larger ineptitude of Zaccari.
  • by Richard Location: Valdosta on Oct 4, 2007 at 07:41 AM
    Assuming he sought and got it, President Zaccari quite obviously received very poor advice from his administrative circle. One can perhaps understand Dr Zaccari taking Barnes' obviously satirical statements personally and in the heat of the moment wanting to rid himself of the nuisance through expulsion. However, the President's advisors have again proven themselves incompetent in not foreseeing the rather obvious implications of such an action. Their lack of objectivity and sound judgment is indeed appalling!
  • by d Location: valdosta on Oct 3, 2007 at 11:34 AM
    zaccarai's trying to hide somethin. Also, wasn't the Bio/chem building recently renamed the Hugh. C Bailey science building? He's not dead, why would pres. z have a problem with a similar situation?
  • by J2 Location: Valdosta on Oct 3, 2007 at 09:59 AM
    It is not true that buildings are only named after people pass away - take the Bailey Science Building on campus for example.
  • by Hayden Location: Valdosta, GA on Oct 3, 2007 at 08:25 AM
    "BC Kelly", you're right, there is a long and complicated time-line and this is only a brief report. The University President cited Board of Regents policy 1902 in my notice of "administrative withdrawal". Policy 1902 was passed during the civil rights movement and prohibits unruly assemble or inciting students to riot. Of course, I have never been provided a definition of what "administrative withdrawal" means or how what I did constitues a violation of Board of Regents policy 1902, either by the University or Board of Regents. The University President could have handled this situation much better, to say the least. Had I violated the code of conduct, charges should have been brought through Judicial Affairs. Had the President honestly felt I was a mental threat (to myself or others), there are established policies for handling that situation as well. All of these policies uphold my right to due process.
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