MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A graduate student, suspended from Montclair State University for making derogatory comments about another student’s weight, spoke with CBS 2’s Christine Sloan on Thursday.
The comments made by 26-year-old Joseph Aziz on YouTube could be called mean. He compared a fellow female student’s legs to “a pair of bleached hams.”
“Honestly, in hindsight, it was foolish and I should not have done it, but I was responding to someone who called someone a racist,” Aziz said.
Aziz posted his comments under video of the female student’s boyfriend heckling Steve Lonegan, the director of the New Jersey chapter of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity and a one-time Republican gubernatorial candidate, speaking on campus.
That’s when Aziz said Montclair State University placed an unconstitutional gag order on him, telling him to stop posting.
But Aziz continued mocking the gag order on a private Facebook page, saying “He had slipped through a tyrannical ham lock.”
That’s when he said the university suspended him.
“I was merely discussing my case with friends privately. I had no intention of her viewing that. She is not a member of this group,” Aziz said.
University officials said they do not discuss student disciplinary matters. However they did say much of their decision was based on New Jersey’s anti-bullying bill of rights.
Friends of the female student said she felt she was being harassed.
“The words that was used against her was out of control — bleached ham in regards to her skin and her size,” said Thea Stelzla.
“Going so far as to telling students what they are not allowed to say in the context of a political debate is very clearly unconstitutional,” said Peter Bonilla, of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
The law was in the works when Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate Dharun Ravi used a webcam to spy on him kissing another man and in tweets asked others to watch.
“Tyler Clementi’s case was unprovoked. This, in a sense, was. I’m not justifying what I did, however, this was not bullying,” Aziz said.
Even so, the university isn’t budging and suspended Aziz for an entire semester.
Aziz said he was cleared of harassment, but he will get a note in his transcripts saying he was disciplined. That is why the civil liberties group is trying to get the suspension revoked.
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