Two University of Connecticut students who were arrested, accused of shouting a racial slur while walking through campus are suing the university, claiming their First Amendment rights were violated.
UConn police later arrested Jarred Mitchell Karal, of Plainville, and Ryan Gilman Mucaj, of Granby, who are facing charges including ridicule on account of creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race. The third student was not heard yelling a slur and was not charged.
Karal was granted a special form of probation that could result in dismissal of the charge. Mucaj's criminal case is still pending.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Karal and Mucaj focused not on the criminal case but on the university’s disciplinary response, detailing how the school is seeking to remove them from university housing, claiming their actions amounted to “disruptive behavior” that violated the student code of conduct. The lawsuit argues that the university’s actions amount to retaliation that “impermissibly discriminates as to speech content and viewpoint.”
They claim the school’s actions violate the First Amendment. It cites the 1990 case of Nina Wu. v. University of Connecticut, a case concerning the use of personal slurs, where the university agreed “to be permanently enjoined from ‘ enforcing . . . any other policy that interferes with the exercise of First Amendment rights by the plaintiff or any other student, when the exercise of such rights is unaccompanied by violence or the imminent threat of violence.’”
The lawsuit notes that in their case, “At no point in any of the proceedings was either student accused of acting with violence or the imminent threat of violence, or any misconduct even remotely approaching such. The school has only ever accused the students of acting orally and verbally,” and argues that they are being punished for speech which should be protected by the First Amendment.
They are requesting that the court grant injunctive relief from the university’s disciplinary process, as well as undisclosed damages.
A UConn spokesperson said the university does not comment on pending litigation.