COCC’s million dollar lawsuit

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Craig White | MCT Campus

Former dorm resident sues COCC for $1,011,800

Tobey Veenstra
The Broadside

Former Juniper Hall resident Randolph Solo is suing Central Oregon Community College and two Juniper Hall employees for $1,011,800, claiming the defendants conspired to deprive him of civil rights.

https://www.midoregon.com/accounts/student.shtml

In the lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court of Oregon on Aug. 2, Solo alleges Juniper Hall Resident Director Paul Amar, Resident Assistant Megan Bernard and COCC employees “threatened [him] with arrest, denied him due process, illegally restricted [his free speech] via coercion” and unlawfully evicted him from the dorm.

The series of events began last Spring term. Solo sent COCC Student Life Director Gordon Price an email criticizing Sodexo, COCC’s food service provider. Afterwards, Solo allegedly received several “veiled threats” from people connected to Sodexo, according to his complaint.

On or around May 17, Solo found a bullet in the restroom pointed in the direction of his dorm room “in an attempt to frighten [him]
into silence.”

He reported the bullet to Bernard, who “ordered [Solo] not to tell anyone about the bullet.”

Solo, however, started warning dorm residents “someone may have a gun in the dorm.”

Juniper Hall Housing Coordinator Paul Wheeler subsequently requested an informal judicial hearing with Solo on May 19 regarding
a violation of COCC’s Breach of Peace policy. The next day Solo was evicted from Juniper Hall and issued a trespass warning.

On May 31, Solo sent Bernard an email threatening to sue her.

Two days later he was charged with violating COCC’s harassment policy and warned of a possible suspension from COCC.

“What I’m hoping to achieve is I want COCC to back off and to send a message to other schools that this is not all right,” said Solo.
“The federal government gives people first amendment free speech rights … [The defendants] are just stomping over them in a very
gross manner.”

The defendants filed a “motion to dismiss and to make more definite” on Oct. 5, stating Amar and Bernard “are entitled to qualified
immunity because they did not play an affirmative role in any of the alleged actions” and COCC “is entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity and requests to be dismissed from the complaint on that basis.”

Amar, Bernard and Wheeler had no comment on the situation, referring all inquiries to COCC Dean of Instruction Alicia Moore.
“What was presented in this lawsuit is so vague,” said Moore. “He (Solo) filed this. We filed a motion to dismiss it because of
the vague nature of it … From a layperson’s perspective I don’t believe it has merit.”

In response to defendants’ motion, Solo filed a rebuttal on Oct. 14, claiming Amar and Bernard are not COCC employees and
therefore “qualified immunity does not extend to them.” In his rebuttal, Solo also “requests that defense motions be all denied and this case be allowed to continue.”

Although Moore said the administration takes these situations seriously, they can also distract from other responsibilities. “One of the things we have done in response to this is to review all of our policies, practices and procedures,” said Moore. “We’ve also set the bar higher in many of those areas to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students … So it’s unfortunate that a situation like this would pull us away from providing other services to students because of the time-consuming nature of this.”

Among Solo’s demands are $1,000,000 in punitive damages intended to send the message to other educational institutions that
“severe violations of student civil rights will always be punished severely and vehemently!” according to the complaint.

According to Solo, “A lawsuit is the only means to achieve this.”

A hearing on the motion to dismiss is scheduled for Nov. 29 at 10:30 a.m. at the federal district court in Eugene with Judge Michael

Hogan, according to the defendants’ Attorney Haley Percell.

Solo will be representing himself.
Tobey Veenstra can be reached at tveenstra@cocc.edu

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