Northern Michigan University: Student Punished for Emailing the Student Body a Survey Seeking Anonymous Feedback on University Mental Health Services


Northern Michigan University

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Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

On April 6, 2022, after a recent Northern Michigan University student’s suicide, NMU student Dominick Dotson asked university leaders if he could send a campus-wide survey requesting anonymous feedback about campus mental health services. After NMU rebuffed his request, Dotson found a way to send the survey himself. On April 7, NMU temporarily suspended Dotson and, on April 14, charged him with violating university policies on IT use and research review. FIRE wrote NMU on April 28 calling for it to rescind the suspension and all disciplinary charges against Dotson, explaining that his survey did not violate any university policies and constitutes expression addressing a public issue, and as such is protected by the First Amendment.

NMU initially refused to drop the charges, resulting in another FIRE letter on May 9 and prompting Dotson to hire attorney Nicholas Roumel from NachtLaw. On May 24, Roumel finalized a resolution with NMU to rescind the charges and clear Dotson’s disciplinary record.