A Regent University law student who posted an unflattering photo of school founder Pat Robertson on the Internet has been banned from campus and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation before he can return to classes.
Adam M. Key, 23, also was ordered to undergo counseling if a mental health provider that is acceptable to the university deems it appropriate, and to provide a report showing that he has completed any treatment plan required. He also must agree to allow the mental health provider to provide regular updates on his treatment to the school.
“It’s rather entertaining to me that I’ve been there a year and a half now and only now are they concerned about my mental state,” Key said in a telephone interview.
Key received his undergraduate degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.
Key posted a picture of Regent’s chancellor and president making what appears to be an obscene gesture on his Facebook social-networking page. Key said he copied the photo from an online video in which Robertson scratches his face with his middle finger.
In a letter he received Friday from Associate Dean for Student Affairs L.O. Natt Gantt II, Gantt said several students have come forward expressing concern about Key’s behavior this semester, and have reported that Key said he brought a gun onto campus.
Key, who provided a copy of the letter to The Associated Press, denied ever having a gun and accused the university of exploiting the fear that lingers since a gunman at Virginia Tech killed 32 people last April in handing down its harsh punishment.
“There’s a big difference between someone who was incredibly violent like the Virginia Tech kid and someone who disagrees with the administration,” he said in a telephone interview. “At the time we start labeling people who have dissenting voices as dangerous, we start losing the freedom that makes us Americans.”
Key said he has consulted with attorneys and intends to file a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that officials have summoned classmates in for discussions and shared with them private information about his academic standing and other matters.
In the letter, Gantt wrote: “… these students have expressed that your presence on campus causes them to have serious concerns about their personal safety.”
Key said he stands 6-foot-3, weighs 300 pounds, used to be a pro wrestler and has several tattoos, but that his demeanor hasn’t changed since he enrolled last year.
The letter also tells Key that “your undergoing evaluation and possible counseling will enable you to enhance your well-being and improve your future” and says the school has no plans, at present, to begin any proceedings under the Honor Code or the University Standard of Conduct, but reserves the right to take those actions later.
E-mail messages seeking comment sent to Gantt and Dean Jeffrey Brauch were not returned Friday night, and a spokeswoman said she was not at liberty to comment. She said a written statement issued from Robertson on Thursday night still applied.
Robertson said privacy laws barred him from commenting on Key’s situation, but that “in general, no action should be taken against anyone who exercises their freedom of speech and expression, and that includes criticism or satire of the chancellor.
He added, however, that the school did not feel that deliberately manipulating a television image to turn it into something obscene was included in that freedom.
All this, Key said, because of a “simple funny picture of Pat.”
After the private Christian university in Virginia Beach became aware of the posting, Key said officials demanded that he publicly apologize, then withhold public comment about the matter, or submit to the law school dean a legal brief defending the posting. Key chose the latter, arguing that his posting was satire protected under the First Amendment, and said Brauch rejected his written legal brief.
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