George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old Floridian who shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin a month ago, has been suspended, or perhaps expelled, from Seminole State College as a result of the shooting.
The reasoning behind what university officials are calling a “withdrawal” remains unclear. In a statement yesterday, they said this:
“Due to the highly charged and high-profile controversy involving this student, Seminole State has taken the unusual but necessary step this week to withdraw Mr. Zimmerman from enrollment. This decision is based solely on our responsibility to provide for the safety of our students on campus as well as for Mr. Zimmerman.”
At least in published reports, officials did not specify the nature of this perceived threat to the ” safety of [their] students” or whether they believed that this threat was posed by Zimmerman or by others.
It’s that ambiguity, rather than the suspension itself, that I find troubling. If the college removed Zimmerman because of legitimate, specific concerns about his actions, that’s one thing. But if they “withdrew” him simply because he has become a controversial and notorious figure, that’s very different.
And it turns out that Seminole State College has pretty much complete discretion to suspend any student for any reason at any time. The college’s code of conduct states that students who engage in “conduct … deemed improper and detrimental to the College” are “subject to disciplinary action.” The college president (“or designee”) may suspend any student they consider guilty of a “serious violation of College policies, regulations, or local, state, and federal laws where the students continued presence might threaten the welfare of an individual or the College.”
Not hard to see how that kind of policy could be abused.