Petition created for student removed off campus due to Tourette syndrome

Rhonda Wheeler, Editor-in-Chief

A student was reportedly asked to leave campus after several reports to Public Safety due to his Tourette syndrome on Monday.

Seth Pressler, a freshman, suffers from Tourette syndrome and he is physically and mentally unable to control it.

Tourette syndrome is a disorder that involves repetitive movements or unwanted sounds, also called tics, that can’t be easily controlled, according to Mayo Clinic.  

Tics can vary in type, frequency and severity and can worsen if ill, stressed, anxious, tired or excited. 

Julia Ennis, a senior communication studies major, was upset when she heard the news from Pressler and decided to make a petition to get him back on campus.

“I was frustrated, confused and honestly kind of hurt that I go to a university that handled it that way,” Ennis said. “Especially a university that claims to support diversity and different people. It didn’t seem like that was happening when they made this decision.”

Ennis said she hasn’t felt unsafe around Pressler, despite his Tourette’s causing him to yell “profane vocabulary in inappropriate situations.”

In the petition created, Ennis describes Pressler as “kind, funny and selfless.”

“Now that you know, what will you do to change the outcome?” the petition said. “Would you strip someone of their college experience, their friendships, their home, the job because of a disorder they cannot control? Please strongly consider the way your university handled this situation.” 

The petition can be found here.  There are now over 10,000 signatures.

The university sent out a response saying they are aware of the petition, but due to FERPA and HIPAA regulations, they will not be able to comment directly on an individual student case.

“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,” the email said.

They said USI has a strong history of providing services and academic accommodations to support the needs of students.

The email also said the university appreciates the “outpouring of concern and support by those commenting on the limited details provided in the petition” and those who sent direct feedback to the university.

“USI will always make decisions with care and concern for individuals at the forefront,” the email said.

President Ron Rochon also addressed the petition.

“You need to know that I am always proud to be your president, but I’m extremely proud of the outpouring of love and support I have seen for a member of our USI community,” he said.

Rochon apologized for the sense of unfairness people have felt over the petition, but wants people to know he is proud of the community for speaking up.

“This is what a culture of care should do,” he said.

He said due to FERPA and HIPAA, he cannot speak about a certain individual case, including the one involved in the petition.

“I need everyone to know I’m not hiding behind FERPA or HIPAA laws, but rather, I stand in support of the protections they provide for each and every student at our university,” he said.

He said he knows this is a difficult situation for everyone involved. He also said providing a culture of care means tough decisions have to be made for the good of an individual and the whole.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. Last update was Oct. 15 at 10:30 a.m.