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Student sues over ouster after post-Super Bowl disturbance

A University of Massachusetts Amherst student expelled two days after he was arrested in a rowdy post-Super Bowl disturbance on campus is challenging his expulsion in federal court.

Cullen Roe argues in a complaint filed in US District Court in Springfield that the university and its officials made an “arbitrary, unfair, intimidating, wrongful, and unlawful decision to summarily expel a student who poses no imminent threat to anyone.’’

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The lawsuit said, among other things, that the university violated Roe’s rights under state and federal law. The suit also asked a judge to order the university to lift the expulsion, pay Roe compensatory damages, and pay his lawyer’s fees.

Ed Blaguszewski, a UMass spokesman, said that any time a student is arrested, the information is forwarded to the dean of students, and the case is reviewed to see if it warrants any sanctions. He said the cases from the post-Super Bowl disturbance “have gone before the dean, and she has reviewed the cases and taken appropriate action.’’

But he had no specific comment on Roe’s case. “We do not comment on pending litigation at the university, and we do not comment on any specific results of any disciplinary action at the university,’’ he said.

Roe’s lawsuit said a crowd of about 1,500 gathered on campus after the game “and allegedly fought, climbed trees, threw bottles, rocks, and ice, attempted to tip over cars, lit fireworks, and started at least one fire.’’ But Roe is not alleged to have done any of that, the suit said.

Instead, according to the suit, a plainclothes officer in the crowd alleged that he saw Roe run toward uniformed police, yell a profanity at them, and challenge them to “bring it on.’’

The officer identified himself and arrested Roe on charges of failure to disperse and disorderly conduct. “It is undisputed that the plaintiff made no effort to resist his arrest and was fully compliant as he was escorted to a nearby police van,’’ the suit said.

A lawyer for Roe, Luke Ryan of Northampton, declined to comment on the record last night. The Super Bowl game, which the Patriots lost to the New York Giants, was on Feb. 5; Roe was expelled on Feb. 7.

The suit said university officials expelled Roe under a provision that allows “interim restrictions’’ before formal disciplinary hearings take place, for students who are “imminent threats.’’

The suit said the university had never given Roe an explanation, in writing or in person, of how Roe was a threat to “anyone or anything’’ at the university.

The suit also said officials had informed Roe that the case had been referred for a disciplinary hearing, but his father had written a letter expressing concern that even if Roe is reinstated he would be “disadvantaged academically’’ because of the classes he has been forced to miss.

Martin Finucane can be reached at mfinucane@globe.com.
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