Officials at a public university in Alabama tried to force a student to remove his "Trump/Pence 2016" sign from his dorm room window, but they relinquished the fight on Thursday, acknowledging they have no legal basis for their power play.
David Meredith, a student at the University of South Alabama and a supporter of President Donald Trump, was told by a school administrator that the campaign sign he displayed in his dorm room window on March 30 violated university policy.
"It is against university policy for political signs to be posted in windows, including residence halls," Community Director Dylan S. Lloyd said in an email to Meredith.
Lloyd gave Meredith 24 hours to comply with the request and warned him that a residential adviser would follow up to make sure the sign was no longer posted.
Meredith's response to the school included only one line.
"1st amendment," he replied.
Lloyd insisted Meredith remove the sign because the dorm was a "federal building" and indicated the university could not show support for any political figure. Meredith pointed out that the building was part of a state-run university, not a federal building as Lloyd claimed.
The school pursued charges against Meredith for his refusal to comply until The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent the school a letter, explaining that Meredith was well within his First Amendment rights to display a political sign in his own residence.
University of South Alabama Communications Director Bob Lowry confirmed on Friday that the charges against Meredith were dropped, and in a news release, the university admitted they did not have the legal right to censor him.
"The University of South Alabama and its leadership are committed to the principles of free speech, and to the free and open exchange of ideas. The incident in question resulted from a misunderstanding on the part of one student member of the housing staff, who misinterpreted the University's campaign signage policy," the statement read.
"This was a mistake by one individual, and does not reflect the actual university policies and processes. The staff have been instructed as to the proper interpretation and application of university policy, and the student involved in this issue has been advised of the mistake and that the signage they displayed is permissible and can be reposted," it added.