Written by Jamel Shorter, Staff Writer
Thomas Hayden Barnes was a student here at Valdosta State University in 2007 under the presidency of Ronald Zaccari. Hayden Barnes became known for his lawsuit against Zaccari, VSU, and the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia. Barnes filed the lawsuit in 2008 due to his rights being violated under the First Amendment and being “administratively withdrawn” (expelled) from VSU as a result of Zaccari’s decision.
Barnes was an avid protestor and strongly detested the construction of a new parking deck on campus, because he believed it would remove the incentive for students to rely less on cars and effectively create a cleaner air space. Barnes wanted a small portion of student fees to be used towards an expanded transit system for the campus. Zaccari declined. Barnes continued to pursue the issue, started contacting local media outlets, and taking to social media sites like Facebook. He soon caught the attention of Zaccari in a “negative” way, and he deemed Barnes a threat to himself and that of VSU.
Barnes won his lawsuit in 2010, as reported by the Valdosta Daily Times.
In July 2015, the Georgia Department of Administrative Services settled with Barnes and his lawyers for the amount of $900,000. The Board of Regents and Valdosta State University were dismissed from the case in 2012.
Interim President Dr. Cecil P. Staton issued a statement concerning the settlement on July 24, 2015.
“Many of you have seen or read news reports regarding the settlement agreement that was reached yesterday in the Hayden Barnes civil rights lawsuit,” Staton said. “Contrary to these reports, the Georgia Department of Administrative Services made the decision to settle this case and is funding the settlement amount in its entirety…We are pleased this matter has been finally closed.”