Wednesday, December 5, 2007

An Update on the Case of Dennis Lennox

I was made aware of the case of Dennis Lennox yesterday by my cohorts at Red State. Dennis Lennox is a student at Central Michigan University. He has become concerned because one of the professors there, Gary Peters, is also running for Congress. Lennox wants to make sure that Peters doesn't use the bully pulpit of the classroom to run his campaign.

Lennox has gone to the extreme and controversial step of following Peters around the public areas of the University with a camera and asking questions and then posting the encounters on You Tube. This is what is referred to as ambush journalism. There are a few things to note here. The recepient of the ambush is never comfortable or pleased with it. Second, this is a bold and sophisticated form of journalism. In other words, something that is very impressive for a college student. Finally, when it is done in public areas to public officials, it is well within first amendment rights.

There is no doubt that Peters doesn't enjoy being ambushed everytime he walks the grounds of Central Michigan University. So what? He decided to make himself a public figure when he ran for Congress. He decided to open himself up to further scrutiny when he also decided to teach in the classroom during his campaign.

Where the real problems start is what the administration has done in response. They have clearly sided with the professor against the right of the student. They have banned video cameras from the public square. This move has even created an alliance between the ACLU and Conservative Michigan blog Right Michigan.

Right Michigan has obtained a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union addressed to Central Michigan University President Michael Rao and dated November 27th requesting that the University lift a ban on videotaping Professor
Gary Peters on campus, a ban targeted at a conservative student, Dennis Lennox. According to the ACLU the University's decision "violates Mr. Lennox's First Amendment right to engage in political advocacy."

Agree or disagree with Lennox's tactics, or with the ACLU's position on most other things, for that matter, but they're absolutely right about this one.

Lennox videotapes a Professor in a public setting at a public university on public property. CMU's targetted ban (it didn't exist before Gary Peters and Dennis Lennox) is a direct attempt to scuttle his First Amendment rights and, in fact, the rights of every Michigan taxpayer. Props to the ACLU for getting this one right.

So far, my previous piece has received only one comment. I want to share it now because it is revealing of the mindset of the other side.

If this guy wants to inteview the prof, he should arrange an interview. Stalking is not a reasonable form of political expression.It has often been said that liberals regard civil liberties as an excuse to indulge in immature or offensive behavior. This the same kind of thing.

Whether or not one approves of Lennox' methods is frankly not the issue. If this poster wants to publish a commentary condemning the methods of ambush journalism they can do that. That said, the school cannot under any form of freedom and fairness halt his activities by barring something constitutional. This professor made himself a public figure when he ran for Congress. He made his activities open to scrutiny when he decided to teach at the same time he ran. Whatever you think of his methods, he has every right to use them. The school is threatening him with expulsion. (like I said in my previous diary, my radar is up whenever I hear of universities trying to subvert student's rights especially when the student is trying to do the right thing) The school opened itself up to this when it allowed him to teach while he ran, and now they are subverting perfectly legal citizen journalism that is trying to make sure that the appearance of impropriety is all there is. It is frankly despicable and I hope everyone stands with me in not only condemning it, but doing something about it. Here is a list of email addresses and other contact information of those in charge at Central Michigan University.

Mr. Jeffrey R. Caponigro, chair:
Ms. Stephanie Comai:
Mr. Brian W. Fannon:
Ms. Jacqueline N. Garrett:
Dr. Marilyn French Hubbard:
Dr. Sam R. Kottamasu:
Mr. John G. Kulhavi, vice chair:
Ms. Gail F. Torreano:
Dr. Michael Rao: (989) 774-3131,

I hope everyone reading this will email those in charge and demand that Lennox not only be given his constitutional rights back but that his intimidation ends. He is being threatened with expulsion. So please, everyone write a respectful email that demans this stops immediately. Here is mine...

Dear Mr. Capognorio,

I am a conservative blogger and contributor to I have been made aware of your efforts to intimidate a student who was using ambush journalism with regards to a professor who was also running for Congress. It is sad and reprehensible that the administration would try and protect a professor from embarrassment and from feeling uncomfortable, rather than defend a student's right to the FIRST AMENDMENT. Whatever you think of his methods, he has every right to approach Professor Peters with a camera in a public square. Professor Peters made himself into a public figure when he decided to run for Congress. He opened himself up to controversy when he also decided to teach while he ran.

What the student in question, Dennis Lennox, is trying to make sure of is that this appearance of impropriety is only an appearance. Your administration created the opening for such action when you allowed the teacher to teach and run for Congress concurrently. Furthermore, rather than protecting your student's rights to the first amendment you actually try and intimidate him. You have taken the drastic and unconstitutional step of banning video in your public square. This is a pandora's box. Does this include video equipment on cell phones as well? I understand that you are even threatening to expel him. This is unacceptable and if you insist on moving forward, I can assure you that you will make an enemy of the right blogosphere and we will in unison use every power of the internet to expose your intimidation to the world.

The reputation is ultimately the most important thing that a University has. If you want yours to be one of protecting professors and intimidating students then keep this up.

Now, its your turn.

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