Powe v. Miles

407 F.2d 73 (1968)

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Powe v. Miles

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
407 F.2d 73 (1968)


Alfred University (Alfred) (defendant), a private university in New York, operated the New York State College of Ceramics (NCC). NCC was established in 1948 by the State of New York as part of a plan to create state contract schools operated by private universities. NCC, unlike Alfred’s other colleges, was subject to the authority of the state university trustees. The state paid all direct expenses of NCC and a stipulated sum per credit hour for every NCC course. Moreover, Alfred was reimbursed for the salaries of various high-ranking NCC employees, including the dean of students and the president. Retired NCC faculty could opt for either the state’s retirement plan or Alfred’s. NCC students also took liberal arts classes at Alfred’s other colleges and lived on campus. On May 11, 1968, a group of 16 students staged a demonstration at a Reserve Officers’ Training Course (ROTC) event that took place during Alfred’s annual parents day. The purpose of the demonstration was to express opposition to the Vietnam War and Alfred’s policy requiring all students to enroll in ROTC for two years. The demonstrators did not give notice or seek approval as required by Alfred’s policy. Seven of the 16 students who failed to comply with a demand to end the demonstration were ultimately suspended by Alfred. Three of the seven students were NCC students. Emile Powe and six of the other suspended students (plaintiffs) brought an action against Alfred and Leland Miles (defendant), president of Alfred, alleging a violation of the Civil Rights Act and seeking an injunction compelling Alfred to reinstate them for the upcoming semester. The requested injunction would also declare Alfred’s policy on demonstrations to be void and direct it to stop interfering with the free-speech rights of students. The district court dismissed the claim for want of federal jurisdiction, finding that the demonstrators failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The demonstrators appealed, arguing that there was state action involved in Alfred’s decision.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Friendly, J.)

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