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Central Michigan Curtails Students’ Rights to Political Expression and Due Process

Dennis Lennox, a student at Central Michigan University (CMU), faces disciplinary sanctions, including expulsion from the university, for allegedly violating the Student Code of Conduct. Lennox is the spokesman for Students Against Gary Peters at CMU. Peters holds an endowed chair at CMU and is a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. The Saginaw News reports that Lennox was found to be in violation of the Student Code of Conduct for passing out flyers regarding Peters’ candidacy. A CMU policy requires that literature be distributed at least 25 feet from campus buildings, but Lennox claims that the policy is only selectively enforced. Lennox is refusing to attend his hearing because, he says, the university has denied him requisite due process protections such as providing him with the evidence against him.

Lennox had tried on several occasions to film Peters on campus grounds. The university also sent a letter to Lennox forbidding him from filming Peters or anyone else on campus without CMU’s permission. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has written CMU a letter demanding that the university rescind the ban on filming a political candidate at a public university. The Morning Sun reports the ACLU’s reasoning:

The ban on videotaping violates Lennox’s First Amendment right to engage in political advocacy, Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said.

“If the First Amendment means anything, it means that individuals may engage in political advocacy,” he said.

“Even if we find it distasteful.”

“While some may find Mr. Lennox’s method of videotaping and posting recordings on the Internet objectionable, it is a protected means of engaging in political expression,” he said.

Lennox was threatened with the possibility of facing a violation of the Student Code of Rights, Responsibilities, and Disciplinary Procedures if he again videotaped on campus without permission. The ACLU has requested a response by December 10. FIRE is interested to see how CMU defends its actions.

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