Western Michigan University

Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Website: http://www.wmich.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 6th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Western Michigan University 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.

  • Western Michigan University – Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit

    October 20, 2014

    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 […]

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Red Light Policies

  • WMUnet Acceptable Use Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: March 2, 2015

    You are not allowed to use your connection to: …

    • Post or send obscene, pornographic, sexually explicit, or offensive material.
    • Post or send material that is contrary to the mission or values of the University.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • RSO Handbook: Free Speech Area 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: March 2, 2015

    As an open community, WMU protects freedom of expression and powerfully affirms civility. As such, all members of the University community and all those who visit our community are expected to respect the rights and dignity of others. In support of these principles and the marketplace of ideas, WMU has established the flagpoles as an area for outdoor expression.

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  • Student Code: Proscribed Conduct 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies
    Last updated: March 2, 2015

    Any student found to have committed the following misconduct is subject to conduct sanctions … Physical abuse, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion and/or other conduct which threatens or endangers the health, well-being, or safety of any person.

    • Bullying / Cyber-bullying – Defined as repeated and/or severe aggressive behavior likely to intimidate or intentionally hurt, control or diminish another person, physically or mentally (that is not speech or conduct otherwise protected by the 1st Amendment). This includes but is not limited to: creating web pages with a negative focus; posting insults or lewd photos on social networking sites; and/or spreading rumors with malicious intent.

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  • Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, and Stalking Interim Policy and Procedures 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: March 2, 2015

    Sexual Harassment: Any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: … (3) Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance, i.e. it is sufficiently serious, pervasive or persistent as to create an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, demeaning, or sexually offensive working, academic, residential, or social environment under both a subjective and objective standard.

    Sexual harassment also includes gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

    Examples of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment as defined above may include a severe, persistent or pervasive pattern of unwelcome conduct that includes one or more of the following: …

    • Verbal conduct:
      • Making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs or humor
      • Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual’s body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual, suggestive or obscene letters, notes or invitations
      • Objectively offensive comments of a sexual nature, including persistent or pervasive sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes, or anecdotes
    • Visual conduct:
      • Leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of suggestive objects or pictures, cartoon or posters in a public space or forum
      • Severe, persistent, or pervasive visual displays of suggestive, erotic, or degrading sexually oriented images that are not pedagogically appropriate
    • Written conduct: letters, notes or electronic communications containing comments, words, or images described above

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  • RSO Handbook: Flyer/Poster Posting Guidelines 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: March 2, 2015

    Organizations may post or distribute literature on University property. However, the University expects that poster and literature content will conform to established requirements and generally accepted standards of good taste.

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  • RSO Handbook: Outdoor Space Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: March 2, 2015

    Use of all outdoor space by requester must be registered with SALP 5 business days before an event or activity.

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  • Student Code: Proscribed Conduct 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: March 2, 2015

    Any student found to have committed the following misconduct is subject to conduct sanctions … Use of computing facilities to send obscene or abusive messages.

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  • Student Code: Appendices- Posting/Distribution Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: March 2, 2015

    Students may not post or distribute literature on University premises except in designated areas and with appropriate University approval.

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Green Light Policies
  • 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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  • Censorship on Michigan’s College Campuses Must Stop

    November 4, 2014

    By Catherine Sevcenko at The Huffington Post Recently two Michigan colleges were exposed trying to censor students. First, Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) directed that all communications with the media be routed through the communications office, including requests from the student paper — even if they wanted to interview other students. Even more discouraging than the fact administrators would want to “control the story” on a college campus — a place dedicated (in theory anyway) to the free exchange of ideas — was the reaction of the student government. According to the school’s paper, theCollegiate, the Student Alliance president thought […]

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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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  • Colleges have free speech on the run

    November 30, 2012

     In 2007, Keith John Sampson, a middle-aged student working his way through Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as a janitor, was declared guilty of racial harassment. Without granting Sampson a hearing, the university administration — acting as prosecutor, judge and jury — convicted him of “openly reading [a] book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject.” “Openly.” “Related to.” Good grief. The book, “Notre Dame vs. the Klan,” celebrated the 1924 defeat of the Ku Klux Klan in a fight with Notre Dame students. But some of Sampson’s co-workers disliked the book’s cover, which featured a black-and-white photograph of a Klan […]

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  • How Free Speech Died on Campus

    November 16, 2012

    At Yale University, you can be prevented from putting an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote on your T-shirt. At Tufts, you can be censured for quoting certain passages from the Quran. Welcome to the most authoritarian institution in America: the modern university—”a bizarre, parallel dimension,” as Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, calls it. Mr. Lukianoff, a 38-year-old Stanford Law grad, has spent the past decade fighting free-speech battles on college campuses. The latest was last week at Fordham University, where President Joseph McShane scolded College Republicans for the sin of inviting Ann Coulter to speak.  […]

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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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  • ‘Speech Code of the Month’ in ‘The FIRE Quarterly’

    May 25, 2007

    As Torch readers know, each month, FIRE features a college or university with a particularly egregious speech code as its Speech Code of the Month. We use Speech Code of the Month to educate the public about the ever-present problem of speech codes on campus, but the feature also helps put public pressure on these schools to encourage revisions of these repressive policies. An article in our new issue of The FIRE Quarterly discusses the changes in policies FIRE has witnessed in four institutions that have been named Speech Code of the Month in the past. Since June 2005, Albertson […]

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  • New Speech Code of the Month Website Feature

    April 13, 2007

    FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month program has been an important vehicle for change. Since June 2005, five universities—Albertson College of Idaho, the University of Nevada at Reno, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Jacksonville State University, and the University of Mississippi—have changed their policies after being named Speech Code of the Month. In addition, the president of Western Michigan University has stated that his institution will revise a policy that was named FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for March 2007. Thanks to a new feature, visitors to FIRE’s website can now see our Speech Codes of the Month together […]

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  • Western Michigan University to Revise ‘Sexism’ Policy

    March 21, 2007

    Students at Western Michigan University (WMU) are freer today thanks to a concerned alumnus who wrote to an open-minded university president about an unlawful policy in place at the school. After FIRE named WMU’s sexism policy its March 2007 Speech Code of the Month, WMU alumnus Brian Akers wrote to WMU President Diether Haenicke to express his concern over the policy. Akers’ compelling and articulate letter is worth reprinting here in its entirety. Akers wrote: Dear Dr. Haenicke:   Please accept this note of interested concern from a WMU alumnus (B.A. 1979; M.A. 1981), regarding the WMU Sexual Harassment Policy, […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Western Michigan University

    March 1, 2007

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for March 2007: Western Michigan University. Not content to merely prohibit sexual harassment, this public university actually bans “sexism,” which it defines as “the perception and treatment of any person, not as an individual, but as a member of a category based on sex.” The Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexism goes on to state that sexism, “[w]hether expressed in overt or subtle form such as sex-related jokes or materials,” will not “be tolerated at Western Michigan University.” It is bad enough that universities attempt to regulate what students can and cannot […]

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