College Summons Student For Holding Unloaded Guns At Cabela's Off-Campus Event

"By calling in a student for a mandatory meeting about photos of his participation in a recreational gun event, Long Island University has sent a message to its entire student body: Watch what you say."

Cabela's
Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A student from Long Island University was called for a mandatory meeting in early August after posting a video and photos of himself holding unloaded firearms at an off-campus event.

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Anand Venigalla was legally holding the firearms at the popular outdoor sporting goods store Cabela's. LIU claimed another student complained that Venigalla “might have violent intentions.”

"By calling in a student for a mandatory meeting about photos of his participation in a recreational gun event, Long Island University has sent a message to its entire student body: Watch what you say," said FIRE’s Senior Program Officer Sarah McLaughlin. "Universities that promise to protect free speech should not hold mandatory meetings for students who engage in it."

During the meeting, LIU’s director of student engagement brought an essay that Venigalla wrote for a class on war, terrorism, and justice in 2017 in which he argued that political violence can sometimes be justified towards authorities but not civilians. He was also questioned about a Facebook comment in which he expressed his disappointment over losing a student government election.

"For LIU administrators, apparently three examples of constitutionally-protected speech somehow warrant a mandatory meeting with administrators," FIRE wrote.

"Free expression matters because it is through the unrestricted expression of ideas that we learn and grow in wisdom," Venigalla said.

"Though LIU is private and not bound by the First Amendment, it is legally and morally bound to honor the promises it makes to students," FIRE added.

The school did not investigate further.

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