A coffee vendor at Boise State University (BSU) that was forced off campus after students took issue with their support for the Thin Blue Line — an organization that works with police non-profits — has taken legal action against the university.
Last year, members of the BSU student government argued that keeping coffee vendor Big City Coffee on campus would send a “poor message” to black students.
The business ended up closing its campus location after students protested the owner, Sarah Fendley, over her support for law enforcement.
Now, Fendley has filed a notice of tort claim against BSU, declaring that Big City Coffee suffered $10 million in damages after the university and the coffee shop ended their contract together, according to a report by the Idaho Press.
The report adds that the tort claim says BSU administrators were “discussing the potential for controversy as early as July 27,” and that if Fendley had known about this, she may not have opened the coffee shop’s campus location in early September, in which she had invested about $150,000 to open.
A notice of tort claim is not a lawsuit, but it is often the precursor to a lawsuit. Tort claims are a written demand to recover money damages, alleging misconduct, and they require a response within three months.
BSU spokesman Mike Sharp told the Idaho Press in an email that the university has received notice of the tort claim, but it does not comment on potential or pending litigation.
The tort claim states that in an October meeting that Fendley had with BSU administrators, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Leslie Webb said Big City Coffee had caused a “firestorm” on campus.
“It was clear that BSU had already decided that it was going to force the termination” of Big City Coffee’s contract, the claim alleges.
The tort claim adds that the climax of that meeting arrived when Fendley “asked Webb if the University would back her up in the face of the unfair criticism,” and “Webb said, ‘That’s not going to happen.'”
Not long after that, Vice President for University Affairs Alicia Estey allegedly said, “I think it is best that we part ways.”
“Her statement was not an invitation for further discussion or a mere observation. It was made in a manner and context that left no doubt that (Big City Coffee’s) time on the BSU campus had come to an end,” the claim says.
After reports surfaced of Big City Coffee’s departure from BSU, the university released a statement, which said, in part, “At no time did the administration at Boise State ask Big City Coffee to leave campus. At no time did the administration ask Big City Coffee to compromise the owner’s First Amendment rights,” according to the Idaho Press.
The report added that the $10 million in damages is based on the cost to open the campus shop, lost income the shop would have generated had it remained open, and “reputational and emotional damages suffered due to being wrongfully and maliciously labeled as a racist and a white supremacist.”