As FIRE reported last week, the University of Michigan rejected a proposed policy that would have severely restricted the distribution of student publications and would have required publications to comply with overbroad campus speech codes. The reversal was due in large part to intense criticism by The Michigan Daily and The Michigan Review, two student newspapers.
Yesterday, editors of The Michigan Review praised the administration’s actions.
"The policy [would] forbid newspapers from printing materials that ‘harass,’" said Michael O’Brien, editor-in-chief of The Michigan Review. "It leaves a door wide open for the University to target publications of all stripes by construing the policy broadly, and subjectively."
As FIRE’s Spotlight confirms, the University of Michigan is a red light school and has policies that severely restrict free expression. The policy on "Hate and Bias-Related Incidents" defines "bias-related incidents" to include clearly constitutionally protected speech.
Bias-related incidents are non-criminal activities that harm another because of that person’s race, color, national origin or ancestry, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, height, weight, marital status and veteran status. Some examples of possible bias-related incidents include writing a racial epithet in erasable marker on someone’s dry-erase board, making fun of another person because of the person’s language or accent, or making insulting comments about someone’s traditional manner of dress or geographic origin.
This would forbid a lot of commentary and satire, effectively crippling freedom of the press at Michigan. Needless to say, the Review is relieved with the outcome:
The Michigan Review counts this as a victory for free speech. "This is a victory for all student publications and for all views. Through our work, and The Daily [campus newspaper], as well, we feel the University saw students’ concern and stepped back from this short-sighted proposal. We are glad to see that the freedom of the press took down this policy intended to stifle that exact freedom" said [editor-in-chief Michael] O’Brien.