Western Michigan University – Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Western Michigan University

This lawsuit is a part of FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. 

A Western Michigan University (WMU) student organization filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the university with assistance from FIRE.  The lawsuit alleged that when Kalamazoo Peace Center (KPC) sought to secure university space for rapper and social activist Boots Riley’s keynote address for its annual Peace Week commemoration, WMU refused, citing “public safety.” When presented with evidence that Riley had appeared on other college campuses without incident, WMU notified KPC that it could hold the event on campus—but only after paying $62 per hour for private security. Rather than pay this unforeseen and unjustifiable expense, KPC arranged for Riley to speak in the basement of the Wesley Foundation, a campus ministry group whose facility was not controlled by the university.

 

  • College Settles Suit Rather Than Try To Justify ‘Speech Tax’ On Student Group

    May 6, 2015

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix Remember the “security fee” that Boise State University charged a student group to host a pro-Second Amendment speaker on campus last year? The school folded under pressure from civil liberties groups, and now Western Michigan University has done the same – only it had to shell out way more. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education announced that WMU settled the group’s Stand Up for Speech lawsuit by agreeing to “revise its policies to comply with the First Amendment and pay $35,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.” In order to get permission to […]

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  • WMU to Pay $35,000 to Settle Free-Speech Lawsuit Filed by Kalamazoo Peace Center

    May 4, 2015

    By Rex Hall Jr. at MLive KALAMAZOO, MI – Western Michigan University will pay $35,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed last year by a student group that said the university’s policies are unconstitutional and restrict free speech on campus. That’s according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a Philadelphia, Pa.-based organization that assisted the Kalamazoo Peace Center in its legal action, which was filed in October in U.S. District Court. Attorneys for WMU and the Peace Center reached a settlement Thursday, according to court documents. Those documents did not disclose the terms of the settlement, however. The […]

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  • Lawsuit Says WMU Policies Restrict Free Speech, Prevented Boots Riley Visit To Campus

    October 22, 2014

    By Rex Hall Jr. at MLive KALAMAZOO, MI – A student group is taking Western Michigan University to court for policies it contends are unconstitutional and serve to restrict free speech on campus. The 26-page action was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids by the Kalamazoo Peace Center and the organization’s co-directors, Jessica Clark and Nola Wiersma. It names as defendants WMU President John M. Dunn, Vice President of Student Affairs Diane Anderson, former WMU Department of Public Safety Chief Robert Brown, Department of Public Safety Deputy Chief Blaine Kalafut, Associate Registrar Laura M. Thomas, and Jan Van Der Kley, […]

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  • Lawsuit Targets Campus ‘Speech Tax’

    October 22, 2014

    By Blake Neff at The Daily Caller A civil liberties organization is taking a Michigan university to court as part of its aggressive campaign to check speech limitations on America’s college campuses. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has filed a federal lawsuit against Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo over what it alleges is an illegal “speech tax” the school levies on speakers whose views are deemed extreme or controversial. The plaintiff in the case is the Kalamazoo Peace Center, a self-described “hub for progressive activities” at WMU that refers to its general membership as “the Collective.” For the […]

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  • Student Group Files Free Speech Lawsuit Against Western Michigan University With Help From FIRE

    October 21, 2014

    By Morgan Chalfant at Red Alert Politics In its continuing effort to “stand up for speech,” the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is currently assisting a student group at Western Michigan University file a First Amendment lawsuit against the college. The student group Kalamazoo Peace Center (KPC) filed the lawsuit Monday over an incident that occurred last spring during the student organization’s “Peace Week” events. Specifically, KPC invited rapper and progressive activist Boots Riley to participate in Peace Week and deliver an address. After the announcement of the speaker, the university charged the group a “security fee” of $62 […]

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  • WMU Has Now Posted Its New Policies Where Students Can Find Them

    June 16, 2015

    Over the past few days, FIRE published several blog posts, sent a barrage of tweets and posted a clock webpage (www.wmuhidestheball.org) pointing out that Western Michigan University had hidden the policies it had promised to enact as part of a settlement in a lawsuit filed under FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.   WMU apparently got the message. In tweets sent to several FIRE staffers, WMU explained that the policies it agreed to in the April 30 settlement agreement and promised to “enact”—the word in the agreement—are now available on WMU’s A-Z Directory. The tweet provided the following link: http://wmich.edu/policies/events. Sure […]

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  • The Clock is Ticking for Western Michigan University

    June 15, 2015

    As my colleague Catherine Sevcenko informed Torch readers last week, Western Michigan University (WMU) shirked its legal and moral duties to its students by making its free speech policies nearly impossible to find. Those same policies are the ones WMU agreed to change and enact after student group Kalamazoo Peace Center (KPC) sued WMU for attempting to keep rapper and activist Boots Riley off campus. WMU simply claims that they’ve enacted the policies without notifying students in any way. WMU students deserve better. To ensure that WMU knows that its unacceptable behavior has not gone unnoticed, we’ve created a clock […]

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  • WMU Sacrifices Students’ First Amendment Rights to Keep Settlement Agreement Secret

    June 12, 2015

    On April 30, 2015, Western Michigan University (WMU) and the Kalamazoo Peace Center (KPC) settled a lawsuit over WMU’s use of an unwritten security policy to keep rapper and social activist Boots Riley off of campus, marking the fifth victory in FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. That should have been the end of the story. Sadly, it isn’t. In implementing the settlement, WMU has shown that it will continue to trample student rights to hide the fact that a student organization successfully forced it to change its unconstitutional policies. The deception began almost immediately after the settlement, when […]

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  • WMU Can’t Spin Away the Facts: It Has to Pay Damages and Reform Its Speech Codes

    May 6, 2015

    Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project plaintiff Nola Wiersma has one regret about settling her First Amendment lawsuit with Western Michigan University: She didn’t get an apology from the university for violating her constitutional rights. We generally encourage plaintiffs to let university defendants save face and savor the fact that they have restored free expression to their campuses, vindicating their rights and those of their fellow students. In short, we advise being gracious in victory. In the case of WMU, however, that is easier said than done. If the university didn’t owe Nola and her co-plaintiffs Kestrel Peace (named as […]

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  • Western Michigan U. Settles Boots Riley ‘Speech Tax’ Lawsuit, ‘Stand Up For Speech’ Scores Fifth Victory

    May 4, 2015

    GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 4, 2015—Western Michigan University (WMU) has agreed to settle a First Amendment lawsuit that alleged the university taxed controversial speech by making student organizers pay for extra security to host rapper and social activist Boots Riley on campus. The lawsuit, filed in October 2014 as part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, also challenged WMU’s posting and space reservation policies. Following settlement talks overseen by a federal magistrate judge, WMU has agreed to revise its policies to comply with the First Amendment and pay $35,000 in damages […]

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  • FIRE’s Sevcenko: Censorship on Michigan’s College Campuses Must Stop

    November 6, 2014

    FIRE fights not just college administrators’ efforts to censor speech on campus but also students’ complacency with, or even support for, such censorship. FIRE Associate Director of Litigation Catherine Sevcenko wrote for The Huffington Post Tuesday to remind students what happens when administrators are allowed discretion in allowing or disallowing speech on campus. Catherine first brings readers’ attention to Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), where community members were instructed to route all communications with the media through the communications office. GRCC Student Alliance President Arielle Brown told the student newspaper The Collegiate that it was perfectly okay for GRCC to […]

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  • Lawsuit! Student Group Sues After Western Michigan U. Taxes Controversial Speech

    October 20, 2014

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2014—A Western Michigan University (WMU) student organization has filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the university today with assistance from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The lawsuit stems from WMU’s demand that the Kalamazoo Peace Center (KPC), a registered student organization, pay a hefty security fee before hosting rapper and social activist Boots Riley for a speech on campus last spring. The suit is the seventh First Amendment lawsuit filed as part of FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. “Western Michigan University’s censorship relied on an old trick: Having realized that it could […]

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  • Western Michigan University Bans Rapper, Burdens Free Expression

    April 18, 2014

    Have you ever been a participant in, or vocally supportive of, the “Occupy” movement? Have you ever spoken in favor of (or against) a controversial cause or idea? Is there something about you that is susceptible to being unreasonably interpreted as even mildly suspicious? If you answered any of these questions in the affirmative, good luck speaking your mind on Western Michigan University’s (WMU’s) campus—at least without the watchful gaze of law enforcement constantly surveilling you and your listeners.

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