Iowa State University has become accustomed to losing appeals in the court. Another one to add to the tally came when the Administration wanted to hinder students from printing T-shirts that showcase support for marijuana. The shirt was supposed to carry the signature marijuana leaf sign and the university’s logo.
It all began when the former President of the University—Steven Leath—in addition to the ISU administrators, violated the rights given to the students in the First Amendment. The case gained hype and as things stand, the students deprived of their constitutional rights can be entitled to monetary damages. There have been a lot of people held responsible.
In addition to the former President and four administrators, the former Vice President, former Senior Vice President, Senior VP Student Affairs, and Director ISU’S trademark office are the people being held accountable. The damages would be paid by Iowa taxpayers in accordance with the state’s law.
The two students who were denied their rights are Erin Furleigh and Paul Gerlich. Both the students have been the most active officers of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws at Iowa. The T-shirts they wanted to print would have had “NORML ISU” written in the front while the back would say “Freedom is NORML at ISU”. The part objected by the University’s administration was the little cannabis leaf on the back just above the term ‘NORML’.
The shirt’s design was not rejected immediately though. In fact, it was approved in the beginning but then fell prey to the conservative lawmakers who claimed that the shirt violated the school’s trademark. Both Erin and Paul went to court right away. This was back in the year 2014 in July. Last year in 2016, the lawsuit went in their favor, when the Judge James Gritzner ruled that the students have been deprived of their constitutional rights.
The Iowa administration went to the appeals court in an attempt to overturn the decision. This plan also failed as the appeals court went with the decision made by Judge James Gritzner. It concluded that the decision taken by the administration was a result of political pressure and no student can be discriminated on the basis of political views.
The Iowa administration was okay with it, as it thought it had qualified immunity. Unfortunately for them, the court even ruled that out. James Loken—A George W. Bush appointee—did not agree with the decisions, stating that school officials should not be held personally responsible and that there is not precedent for that either.
Robert Corn-Revere, who is the students’ attorney, said he would go all the way to make sure that they get all the remedies available. These may include the damages as well as the attorney fees. The hype built around this case can be comprehended from the fact that it gained attention from several other organizations and groups.
Only one of the administrators held responsible for the violation is left at Iowa. Two of them have retired while one has switched to another university.