Last Wednesday, FIRE’s Associate Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Azhar Majeed addressed a group of students at Michigan State University (MSU) in a lecture hosted by the campus chapter of the Center for Inquiry. Justin Wan covered the event for the online campus paper Spartan Edge.
Wan first notes FIRE’s recent case at MSU, in which student Kara Spencer was unjustly found guilty of "spamming":
The most recent case that involved MSU occurred in late 2008 when ASMSU director Kara Spencer was charged of abusing the MSU email system. She sent out emails to 391 MSU employees discussing the potential change in academic calendar. The Student-Faculty Judiciary found Spencer guilty after the MSU Academic Technology Services received a bulk email complaint.
"It was a major one, not only for what happened with Kara Spencer but also the fact that the university revised the policy afterward and actually made it worse," Majeed said.
Spencer’s charge was later dismissed, but university officials straightened the email usage policy and further limited the definition of bulk email. According to an administrative ruling, MSU email addresses are not considered "a forum for the expression of personal opinions."
The e-mail usage policy and other restrictive policies have earned MSU its spot on FIRE’s Red Alert list of the worst violators of individual rights on campus.
Wan also quotes Azhar on the problem of administrative bloat (which Azhar has written about here as well), and how the growth of university bureaucracy can lead to more restrictive policies:
"It is like a too-many-cooks-spoil-the-soup phenomena," Majeed said. "Larger universities tend to have more bureaucracy. You have different people handling different things and you sort of lose that expertise that comes with a certain set of administrators who know exactly what they are supposed to do and what the policies are."
FIRE remains committed to exposing MSU’s shameful and illegal limitations on student speech. Hopefully this event, along with Peter’s recent letter to student groups at MSU, will alert more students to this issue. As Terry Munger, the MSU student who organized the event, said, "this is something we need to be aware of."