UNM student who says she was shunned for anti-gay paper files appeal

University of New Mexico

University of New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A judge dismissed a former University of New Mexico student’s lawsuit alleging she was ostracized by professors for anti-gay remarks made in a paper, federal court documents revealed.

Monica Pompeo and her attorney, Bob Gorence, filed an appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and a hearing on the matter is set for next month, according to court records.

Pompeo claims the university violated her First Amendment right to free speech and kicked her out of a class in 2012 for describing lesbianism as “perverse” in a critique of a lesbian romance film.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that the lawsuit alleges the teacher violated her own syllabus, which called for “open minds” to examine “representations of a plethora of genders and sexualities.” Instead, Pompeo says, she was accused of resorting to “hate speech,” and the professor refused to grade her paper.

Pompeo alleges the professor also made it clear that it would be in Pompeo’s best interests not to return to the class.

The lawsuit filed in 2013 drew national attention.

Chief U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo initially found in September that Pompeo’s claims were enough to make a plausible case that the university violated her First Amendment rights. Initial court documents filed showed that several civil rights and free speech advocates had also sided with the student.

However, Armijo wrote that further investigation revealed that Pompeo’s professors gave her several opportunities to rewrite her essay to follow academic standards.

It also stated Hinkley and other professors explained to Pompeo that she hadn’t substantiated her opinions with critical analysis. Armijo wrote that professor Hinkley and her boss, Susan Dever, communicated with Pompeo repeatedly about editing her essay.

The professors’ attempts to get Pompeo to rewrite her paper were within the realm of teaching, the judge ruled.

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