EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - More than 6,000 people have signed an online petition concerning a University of Southern Indiana student.
The petition claims the freshman student, Seth Pressler, was asked to leave campus because of his Tourette Syndrome.
It says the university knew about the extent of his condition when he was allowed to move in back in August but was forced to leave this month after complaints to campus public safety officials.
The petition says Pressler sometimes shouts inappropriate words, but that the vocal tics are out of his control.
Pressler told 14 News earlier Tuesday, “I say some offensive words that I absolutely do not mean.”
“He’s sure to let everyone know that it’s not intentional," says Trent Thompson, a friend of Pressler and a junior at USI. "He’s a nice guy, and I think he’s really friendly. He definitely does his best to be apart of this community, and I don’t feel like it’s fair what they are trying to do.”
On Tuesday, Pressler said the executive director of public safety at USI sent a recommendation to campus leaders that Pressler needed to leave campus by Friday. This decision came after Pressler says the university referred to his tics as a “disruption” to campus.
Pressler tells 14 News the only alternative option was for him to isolate himself in his dorm room.
“We are almost two months into the semester now, and if this is the decision they were wanting to make," says Thompson, “why let him come all the way to campus, be here for two months, and then have to pull the rug out from underneath him?”
Pressler says he also suffers from physical symptoms like jerks and twitches, but he says the syndrome does not affect him psychiatrically or mentally.
“I think Seth knows,” says Thompson, "and I want him to know from everybody in our group and me specifically, that we are on his side. We’ve got the hashtag Stand with Seth, so.”
14 News asked USI officials for an on-camera interview, and officials said no one would be available, but officials did confirm Pressler is still enrolled as a freshman.
USI officials sent the following statement in response to the petition:
"The University of Southern Indiana is aware of a petition formed about a USI student that has received a number of signatures. Due to FERPA and HIPAA regulations, the University will be unable to comment directly on any individual student case.
However, what we can say is the University has a responsibility to protect the safety and wellbeing of all students, employees and campus visitors to the best of its ability. We also deeply value and support diversity and inclusion for all. There is a strong history of providing services and academic accommodations to support the needs of students in a variety of situations. It is the policy of USI to be in full compliance with all federal and state non-discrimination and equal opportunity laws, orders and regulations relating to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, or veteran status.
As such, we appreciate the outpouring of concern and support by those commenting on the limited details provided in the petition as well as those who have provided direct feedback to us. USI will always make decisions with care and concern for individuals at the forefront. To the extent that the larger campus community may be affected by an individual, the University must always consider the safety and good of the whole."