Oakland University, a Michigan public institution, has evicted a student from campus housing and issued her formal discipline for telling others how she obtained a religious exemption from the school’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Inara Ramazanova is a Russian national student at Oakland and her lawyers say that she has been punished for posting her exemption in a private Facebook group for persons interested in religious exemptions from vaccine mandates around the country.
In a warning letter to the school sent Thursday, the First Liberty Institute wrote on behalf of Ramazanova that her speech had been deemed to be part of a “collusion or conspiracy” to defeat the school’s mandate.
When she refused to admit being part of a “collusion or conspiracy,” the school put the student through a disciplinary proceeding last summer. The hearing before the University Conduct Committee allegedly heard no evidence from Ramazanova and simply wanted to discourage students from sharing information regarding exemptions.
The only witness the committee interviewed was the administrator of the Facebook group. That person said the student’s post came in response to “general questions” posted in the group regarding religious exemptions to mandates around the nation. The relevant posts were not specific to Oakland or its policies. Based on that interview alone, the committee’s hearing panel confirmed the charge against Ramazanova.
Ramazanova was evicted from her campus housing, which the letter from First Liberty claims violated the terms of her scholarship. Although she graduated last December, her disciplinary record will remain part of her transcript and academic file until 2028.
First Liberty attorney Justin Butterfield wrote in a press release that the school violated Ramazanova’s constitutional free speech rights and the federal Fair Housing Act. He told reporters that the student is hopeful the school will clear her academic record and apologize to her without the need of a formal lawsuit.
The letter to Oakland demands that the university expunge her record of the “conspiracy or collusion” allegations, issue a written apology, and assure all of its students that they will not be subjected to similar retaliation and discriminatory treatment for exercising their constitutionally protected right to free speech.
Ramazanova’s family immigrated to America 13 years ago. According to First Liberty, they have always rejected vaccinations on religious grounds. After she obtained a religious exemption to Oakland University’s mandate, she copied “relevant content” from her application into her earlier message thread researching general exemption requirements.