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May 14, 2016

Molander to withdraw from UMass

Also see: Campus Perspective: From Sylvan to Southwest, students discuss Molander
|Podcast: Molander speaks out about his intentions |Molander’s original ‘Friends Club’ letter |Tyler Molander debates withdrawal | Letter causes stir on campus | Campus Perspectives: Students respond to letter and reaction | Editorial: Molander misinterpreted by University

Tyler Molander, the University of Massachusetts junior who distributed a typed letter in hopes of creating a “friend club” to students around the flagship campus on Jan. 29, has decided to withdraw from the University.

Molander – who said he has been on academic probation – said his decision, in part, was based on a discussion with the Dean of Students Office. According to Molander, Dean of Students Enku Gelaye at the University recommended he withdraw as it would be difficult to handle the stress of the situation with a full course load this semester.

“At this time, I’ve missed too much school and I won’t be coming back this semester,” said Molander in a recent phone conversation from his parents’ home in Marion.

According to Molander, he was told that if he did not withdraw from the University, he could face a hearing, as distributing the letter in the dorms violated the school’s solicitation policy.

According to the Code of Student Conduct, which can be found on the Dean of Students’ website, solicitation is prohibited by individual students or groups.

“No student group may represent itself as acting for or on behalf of the University in any commercial enterprise or in the solicitation or collection of funds for any purpose whatsoever without approval in advance by the appropriate University agency. (This applies to all means of communication including, but not limited to, mail, telephone, or other means.)”

On the topic, Molander said in a phone interview yesterday, “The question is, if we knew that policy existed, like if we were willingly giving up our freedom of speech or something like that … It’s something that’s interesting … what exactly we did sign away, did we sign our soul away? I don’t know.”

Last Thursday, Edward Hull, director of Residential Life, and several other officials at the University received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts stating that the solicitation policy “contains numerous unconstitutional provisions.”

The letter, written by William C. Newman, director of the Northampton-based chapter, stated, “The violations of the state and federal constitutional guarantees of free speech and assembly, I would urge, are clear, and for such policies to actually be adopted by a University is deeply disturbing.”

Newman added, “The policy is an anathema to the principles of the University – dedicated presumably to the sharing of ideas.”

Molander said that he had no prior knowledge about the policy before distributing the letter, but added that he was told by the University that he should have known about it.

“The administration told me that I did sign something. We go to this university, we are abiding to the social contract of the university – so like, it’s basically a privilege to be here, so we kind have to follow that,” said Molander.

On whether the University will change the policy, Ed Blaguszewski, executive director of news and media relations at UMass, said, “We’re waiting for the [recommendations of the Student Government Association.]”

Blaguszewski added, “People have different views on what’s unconstitutional and not. It’s a matter of interpretation.”

Hull agrees with this statement. In an email sent to the Collegian last Friday, he wrote, “Calling something unconstitutional is an argument that gets dragged out from time to time…. but claiming something is unconstitutional doesn’t mean it is.”

Molander is unsure about how he feels about the letter from the ACLU and whether or not the solicitation policy is unconstitutional.

“I did read that thing by the ACLU [referring to a letter],” he said. “Basically I just kind of agree with [Hull].  Just because someone says it’s unconstitutional doesn’t mean that it is –

I’m not really sure.”

Whether or not the policy is found to be unconstitutional, Molander said that he will not come back to the University this semester as he has missed too much school.

Alyssa Creamer, Dan Glaun and Katie Landeck contributed to the report.

Michelle Williams can be reached at mnwillia@student.umass.edu.

 

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