On February 22, 2007, FIRE sent a follow-up letter to Michigan State University (MSU) President Lou Anna K. Simon regarding MSU’s Student Accountability in Community (SAC) program. FIRE reiterated the point made to MSU in FIRE’s first letter, that the SAC program is anathema to nearly every tenet of a free society.
In an article in The State News (“Is an MSU program manipulating your thoughts? Student accountability seminar currently under review,” 2/12/2007), Vice President for Student Affairs and Services Lee N. June indicated that the MSU administration would make a decision about what to do with the SAC program in approximately two weeks, a tentative deadline that has passed. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s analysis of the SAC program in The Detroit News indicates that the best way to go is to scrap it altogether.
FIRE reminds MSU that as a state actor it cannot compel speech or punish students in any way for protected speech. As Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote for the majority in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
FIRE awaits MSU’s decision.