Northern Kentucky student creates petition to change orientation speech policy

Handing out condoms, protesting war at new-student welcome landed student leader in jail

KENTUCKY -- A Northern Kentucky University student plans to petition NKU administrators to apologize and revise a policy restricting the distribution of certain materials during student orientation after the student handed out condoms as a form of protest and landed in jail.

Dennis Chaney, a junior at Northern Kentucky University, in Highland Heights, Ky., is president of Students for Change, which describes itself as a group dedicated to working democratically to insure NKU educates well-rounded students. He was arrested after distributing condoms on campus as part of his organization's anti-war campaign.

Chaney has not been in contact with the administrators who initiated his arrest, but he has been in touch with Jeffrey Waple, NKU dean of students. Chaney said Waple was willing to revise the policy without a petition, but after being arrested in public, Chaney, who claims NKU's orientation distribution policy violated his First Amendment rights, says he wants to prove a point.

So far, Chaney says he has collected 200 signatures to revise the orientation guidelines and is hoping to collect 150 more before taking his petition to NKU administrators.

Chaney says he set up a table for Students for Change at a July 31 new-student orientation event where he offered passing students Planned Parenthood pamphlets and condoms, and posted signs that read, "bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity."

An hour later, Holly Caudill-Grote, new-student orientation coordinator and Amy Arbino-Wylie, assistant dean of students approached Chaney. Chaney says they told him his material violated student orientation guidelines, which prohibits handouts or giveaways involving alcohol, drug or sexual innuendo.

"Wylie took the condoms and said we couldn't pass them out," Chaney said.

Chaney said Wylie later returned with a campus police officer, who arrested him for disorderly conduct.

A police report filed said that Chaney was asked to leave campus and began to cause a scene while trying to incite a crowd by yelling that his right to freedom of speech was being violated.

Unable to post a $1,000 bond, Chaney was held in jail overnight. He was released the next morning after he agreed to perform 15 hours of community service. After completing the community service, Chaney says his record will be expunged.

Chris Cole, NKU spokesperson, said that Waple is reviewing various school policies as the new dean of students. None of the NKU officials involved in this story returned phone calls or e-mails seeking comment.

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