UK graduate student files lawsuit against university



Ever since the Virginia Tech shooting in April 2007, the issue of concealed weapons on college campuses has been brought into a brighter spotlight — and last week, the issue was brought into UK’s spotlight.

Michael Mitchell, an epidemiology graduate student will finish his degree in about a month, but currently is in the midst of a struggle with the university. Mitchell filed a lawsuit against the university because he said UK Hospital wrongfully terminated him last April.

UK officials could not be contacted for comment by press time.

Mitchell was working as an anesthesia technician at UK Hospital when UK Police approached him about having a gun in his locker at work.

Mitchell said police searched his locker and did not find a weapon. He then told police about a registered gun he kept in his car.

According to the Kentucky State Police Web site, colleges and universities have authority to limit the carrying of concealed weapons on school-owned property, and the site advises individuals to check with college facilities before carrying the weapon.

If an individual is in possession of a registered firearm and keeps the weapon in his or her vehicle and does not remove it, then that individual is not guilty of a crime, according to the provision titled KRS 527.070.

The Student Code of Conduct states that the possession of a deadly weapon without permission from the dean of students is prohibited. The Dean of Students Office could not be reached by press time to comment on the context of this policy.

Mitchell said after he told UK Police about the gun in his car, they told him they would put the gun in his trunk and let him go, and they did not mention any punishment at the time.

About a week later, Mitchell was fired.

“I was shocked because I didn’t know I’d done anything wrong,” he said.

Mitchell said when going through new student and employee orientations he did not remember any mention of firearms being prohibited anywhere on campus.

Mitchell said UK tried to take away his unemployment benefits, but the state ruled against it.

Mitchell said he and his attorney requested UK give back his job and his missing pay, but the university denied his request.

“With the lawsuit, it’s kind of like I’m making them act,” he said. “They can either say no, and I can take them to court with a lawsuit, or they can try to settle it outside of court.”

Mitchell said the lawsuit was not filed until last week because his attorney, Christopher Hunt, tried to settle the matter outside of court first.

“UK kind of wanted to drag their feet, so my attorney advised we just go ahead and file a lawsuit,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said UK now has a certain time frame to respond to the allegations, so he is waiting to hear back.