Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Federal Circuit: 6th Circuit
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.
May 13, 2009
At the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor The Michigan Review, a student-run publication, was threatened with eviction from their office space after an abrupt change in policy by the university without providing notification to the student group. After the Review frequently opposed UM policies, the group was told by University of Michigan League Director Audrey Schwimmer that they were being denied their office space. UM administrators claimed that this was because UM had reclassified the organization such that it was no longer eligible for five-year leases, although no evidence appears in support of this claim. At some point, UM […]» Read More
Red Light Policies
What are some examples of bias-related incidents?
Depending on the totality of the circumstances, writing a racial epithet in erasable marker on someone’s dry-erase board, making fun of another person because of his or her language or accent, or making insulting comments about someone’s traditional manner of dress or geographic origin are hypothetical examples of a bias-related incident.
How will the University respond when it learns of hate crimes or bias-related incidents?
The University is committed to act responsibly when it learns of incidents motivated by hate or bias. Such occurrences, if they constitute a criminal act such as assault or property damage, should be reported to the police and will be fully investigated. Other acts of intolerance may violate University policies or community standards. In those instances we will pursue a range of remedies that may include disciplinary action as well as community education and dialogue. When you report a bias incident, University staff will help you determine the possible next steps, explain the relevant processes, and offer counseling and support or refer you to other offices that may provide support.
Can individuals who engage in hateful speech be arrested or disciplined by the University?
It depends. The University takes seriously its responsibility to appropriately balance its core values of protecting individual freedoms (e.g., freedom of speech, artistic expression, freedom of association, academic freedom) and ensuring equal and fair treatment of all. These values may sometimes be in conflict. Various University offices are responsible for determining whether hateful speech violates the University’s non-discrimination and unlawful harassment policies. In so doing, the University is always mindful that academia is a unique place where the exchange of ideas, robust debate and artistic expression are critical to the University’s teaching and research missions.
An individual may engage in conduct of a sexual nature that may not be sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive to constitute sexual harassment as described below, but is nonetheless inappropriate. Such conduct also will not be tolerated by the University, is prohibited by the University and is subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment.
Standard Practice Guide Policies: Policy and Guidelines Regarding Electronic Access to Potentially Offensive Material 13-14
Individuals should not be unwittingly exposed to offensive material by the deliberate and knowing acts of others. The University is a community of individuals with diverse values, beliefs, and sensitivities. Individuals must be allowed to choose what they wish to access for their own purposes.
Stalking, harassing, or bullying another person–physically, verbally, or through other means.
Sexual misconduct can include both intentional conduct and conduct that results in negative effects, even if those negative effects were unintended. … Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature if: … (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s educational performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive, or abusive environment for that individual’s education, living environment, employment, or participation in a University-related activity. … Examples may include, but are not limited to, the following: unwanted sexual statements ….
Students at the University have the same rights and protections under the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Michigan as other citizens. These rights include freedom of expression, press, religion, and assembly. The University has a long tradition of student activism and values freedom of expression, which includes voicing unpopular views and dissent.
Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not only for those who espouse a cause or position and then defend it, but also for those who hear and pass judgment on that defense. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, or in any other way detestable cannot be grounds for its suppression.
Rude or offensive behavior, though inconsistent with the standards of civility that we hope would prevail on a university campus, sometimes fall within the legitimate exercise of freedom of speech and, when it does, may not be suppressed.
Because freedom of speech and expression play such a critical role in the functioning of a university, undue interference with the exercise of these freedoms by members of the University community may constitute grounds for resort to law or other formal action.
February 20, 2008
When the College of Literature, Science and the Arts announced a new policy that would regulate the distribution and posting of publications, fliers and signs in LSA buildings, free speech advocates cried foul. The policy, which would only grant distribution rights during fall and winter semesters to student groups that comply with registration and content criteria, seemed to many a blatant violation of the First Amendment. It’s counter-intuitive, a public institution that limits the speech of the public. The University’s Faculty Handbook states, “Because the search for knowledge is our most fundamental purpose, the University has an especially strong commitment to […]» Read More
January 29, 2008
The College of Literature, Science, and the Art’s Facilities and Operations Department is considering adopting regulations that could seriously affect the ability of student publications to distribute their products on campus, according to various interviews and documents obtained by The Michigan Review. (A copy of the draft policy can be found by clicking here.) According to preliminary drafts of the proposed policies, distribution of publications would be limited to those governed by the Board of Student Publications (which includes The Michigan Daily and humor magazine The Gargoyle) and student organizations approved by the Michigan Student Assembly. The policy also forbids […]» Read More
January 31, 2014
College football’s 2013 season is over, but unfortunately the issue of sexual assault on campus is a year-round issue. A few days ago, The Michigan Daily reported that former kicker Brendan Gibbons was expelled from the University of Michigan, soon after he was no longer eligible to play football but years after an alleged sexual assault took place in 2009. Earlier this week, ESPN reported that the University of Missouri failed to investigate allegations of sexual assault against football players raised by a student who later committed suicide. And questions have been raised about whether sexual assault allegations against Florida State […]» Read More
December 23, 2013
Last Friday, a student group at the University of Michigan (UM) filed a federal lawsuit (PDF) against the university, claiming that UM violated the First Amendment when it refused to grant the group student fee funding for one of its activities on the basis that it was a “political activity.” The suit is being brought by Alliance Defending Freedom. The facts as alleged are unsettling but fairly straightforward. On October 22, the UM Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter, a recognized student organization, hosted a presentation by Jennifer Gratz, who famously won a 2003 lawsuit against the university for automatically granting admission “points” to […]» Read More
August 20, 2013
Last week, FIRE’s Samantha Harris reported that the University of Michigan’s Center for the Education of Women (CEW) had rescinded its invitation to The Color Purple author Alice Walker to speak at CEW’s 50th anniversary celebration. According to Inside Higher Ed, CEW and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies are now asking Walker to speak on campus after all—but not at the 50th anniversary celebration. Walker had claimed that she was disinvited because her criticism of Israel offended some university donors. But an email sent to faculty by Provost Martha E. Pollack last Friday stated that the decision to […]» Read More
August 16, 2013
Yesterday, we heard the news that Dartmouth College was retracting its offer of a deanship to Malawian bishop James Tengatenga in light of comments he had made about homosexuality during his tenure as Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi. Today, we learned that the University of Michigan rescinded a speaking invitation to Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, allegedly because of donor concerns about her anti-Israel activism. These two incidents serve to highlight an unfortunate reality at too many universities: While they claim to place a high value on diversity and multiculturalism, they are often unprepared or […]» Read More
February 17, 2011
The Alliance Defense Fund has written a letter to the University of Michigan (UM) after learning that the university burdened the UM group Students for Life with unconstitutional security fees connected to an event featuring Alveda King, niece of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Life News reports: Students for Life hosted a two-part speaking event featuring King in October. Upon learning that a few students opposed to King’s views planned to protest at the event, the university insisted on providing Department of Public Safety officers even though Students for Life believed such security was unnecessary. Approximately 250 people […]» Read More
December 8, 2010
In an article for The Michigan Review, a student newspaper at the University of Michigan (U-M), Joss van Seventer explains how the school’s red-light “Bias and Hate Speech” policy contradicts the university’s rich history of free speech, from the “turbulent protests of the 60s” to U-M’s “modern-day reputation as a leading center of research and inquiry.” The article quotes Will on this point: “It may be well-intentioned, but the University of Michigan’s Bias and Hate Speech policy infringes on students’ First Amendment rights,” FIRE’s Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley said. “In the rough-and-tumble environment of our liberal […]» Read More
November 17, 2010
Michigan Daily columnist Noel Gordon has an interesting observation about the University of Michigan’s South Quad dormitory in a recent column. “[H]anging above the East Side Community Center is a huge, yellow banner,” Gordon writes. “Instead of welcoming you to the building, the banner lets you know just how many days it has been since someone last reported a bias incident.” That’s a new one to me, but it’s another indicator of both the vigilance with which universities today present themselves as beacons of tolerance and the increasing fearfulness among administrators of such “bias incidents.” Once again, administrators are putting […]» Read More
May 3, 2010
On Saturday, President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address to the members of the University of Michigan’s Class of 2010, who assembled along with friends, family, and faculty to form a crowd of 80,000 in Michigan Stadium. In his speech (full text here), President Obama hailed the vital importance of robust debate in our society. He warned that when citizens “choose only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line with our own,” social and political divisions in our nation only deepen, and he urged Americans to instead “actively seek out information that challenges our assumptions and […]» Read More
September 24, 2009
FIRE’s newest Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellow is Erica Goldberg. Erica is a graduate of Tufts University, where she was editor-in-chief of Tufts’ weekly newspaper, and of Stanford Law School, where she was a member of the moot court board. She also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Ronald L. Gilman on the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where she was confronted with various deprivations of freedom of expression. Before becoming a Robert H. Jackson fellow, Erica worked for two years as an appellate attorney at Latham & Watkins in Washington D.C. and then as […]» Read More
March 11, 2009
An article published earlier this week in The Michigan Daily, a student newspaper at the University of Michigan, highlights recent efforts by the university’s leading faculty governance body to strengthen the expressive rights enjoyed by faculty on campus. Just as encouraging, the move appears to have some support on the Michigan campus, as seen in a subsequent editorial in the Daily. In a report to be presented at this month’s Board of Regents meeting, the university’s Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) calls on the university to uphold and protect the right of faculty members to publicly criticize and […]» Read More
November 9, 2007
This week’s Clarion Call, the weekly column of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, highlights FIRE’s speech code victory at Fayetteville State University. Fayetteville State’s Code of Student Conduct was picked as FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for January 2007. It defined racial harassment as: [V]erbal or physical behavior that stigmatizes or victimizes an individual on the basis of race and involves an express or implied threat to another person’s academic pursuits or participation in activities sponsored by the University or organizations or groups related to the University. It was identical to a University of Michigan […]» Read More
March 13, 2006
Last week, Donn M. Fresard, the editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, wrote an editorial addressing the controversy surrounding several cartoons that the student paper published. One of the cartoons in question was a critique of affirmative action, and as Fresard notes, some students were offended: The most controversial of these cartoons portrayed a high school classroom full of dark-skinned students and one white student. At the front of the classroom, a black teacher tells the class that they can all expect special preferences when applying to college—except for Bob, the lone white student. Implicit in the drawing is […]» Read More
February 24, 2006
Yes, that is correct. “Hate speech” is not a category of speech recognized under current constitutional law. It is merely a convenient way to pigeonhole speech that some people find offensive. But what is very troubling is when people begin to treat “hate speech” as unprotected speech. For example, a student leader at Penn State, a university which was recently sued for its unconstitutionally vague and overbroad speech codes, made the following comment featured in a prominent article in the student newspaper The Daily Collegian: “We support any and all university policies that prohibit intolerant actions against any student on […]» Read More