Former professor to take legal action after losing network privileges

Elliot Cramer said he’s out of options.

After months of attempting to regain access to his University email account and website, the former psychology professor and former adviser for UNC’s branch of Youth for Western Civilization said he plans to take legal action.

Cramer, who retired in 1994, said he plans to file an ethics complaint against the University’s general counsel Leslie Strohm in response to the removal of his network privileges, saying she falsely accused him of violating UNC’s network acceptable use policy and reading his emails for months without his knowledge.

He also said he plans to file a lawsuit against Strohm, Chancellor Holden Thorp and the University within the month for violating his First Amendment rights.

“It is a sad day when the chancellor of the University of North Carolina sanctions the invasion of privacy and violation of free speech rights of a retired professor,” he said in an email.

But administrators said Cramer involved the UNC network in a personal dispute, exhausting University resources. That is sufficient grounds for revocation of network rights, Strohm wrote in a June letter to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

In a meeting of the Faculty Council on Friday, Cramer stood and expressed his grievances to the full body.

Thorp responded by saying that all UNC correspondence is public record unless it contains legally protected information.

“I think we’ve done a good job trying to satisfy this,” Thorp told Cramer.

Neither Thorp nor Strohm could be reached for comment following the meeting.

Personal correspondence

UNC’s revocation of Cramer’s email rights stems from a confrontation between Cramer and an individual named Joseph Villarosa. The correspondence began in November 2010, according to emails Cramer posted on his personal website.

UNC was drawn into the situation after it received emails from Villarosa claiming Cramer had violated the University’s network policies, according to Strohm’s letter.

In the correspondence posted by Cramer, Strohm requested permission from Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney to access Cramer’s emails.

Carney approved the request, according to the correspondence.

According to the emails posted by Cramer, Strohm said she found that since 2004, Cramer had regularly used his UNC account to set up and manage a PayPal account on behalf of Friends of the Orange County Animal Shelter. That was a violation of University policy, she said in the email correspondence.

Strohm said in the letter to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that Cramer also failed to comply with the University’s personal use policy when he drew multiple University employees in the dispute with Villarosa.

The policy states that personal use of the network must not undermine the use of University resources for official purposes. Cramer said Strohm never produced evidence of misuse of the system.

Friday confrontation

Talks between Thorp and Cramer extended beyond Friday’s Faculty Council meeting and into the halls of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center, where Cramer pulled Thorp aside during an interview with The Daily Tar Heel.

“If you talk to anyone in the law school, they will tell you it’s a clear violation of my First Amendment rights,” Cramer said.

“We feel that we worked pretty hard to help you out,” Thorp responded. “What we’ve done is appropriate given the situation.”

Strohm said in the letter that UNC will not reinstate Cramer’s network privileges.

“Dr. Cramer has not suffered a deprivation of his constitutional rights,” Strohm said in the letter.

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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