ANN ARBOR, MI – Administrators at the University of Michigan on March 4 declined to pursue a policy designed to restrict distribution of student publications. The proposed policy would have limited student groups to distribution of one publication per semester, and barred unofficial student groups from distribution at all.
Student writers for The Michigan Review, a conservative student newspaper distributed on campus, drew attention to the proposed containment policy in a January 29 news article.
The Review, whose staff had attended Leadership Institute Student Publications Workshops, printed a special-edition article titled “Free Speech Pressed.” The article was the first to bring to light the details of the proposed regulations, which exempted the university’s official student newspaper. The Review article quoted students concerned that the policy would infringe First Amendment rights.
A chorus of disapproval followed the Review article as other campus publications followed suit.
The policy would also have required that any student publication adhere to “all relevant University … policies … including policies prohibiting discrimination or harassment,” language that worried conservative students.
“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.”
After the Review’s first article, “the administration offered to meet and discuss the policy with the editors of student publications who would be affected by the policy,” O’Brien said. “But no meeting ever took place.”
On March 4, The Michigan Review received an email from the university stating that the proposed “Policy on the Distribution of Student Publications” was no longer under consideration.
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 O’Brien.
, president of the Leadership Institute, praised the students’ victory. “Conservative students at most American colleges face intense pressure to keep their opinions to themselves,” Blackwell said.
Ian Ivey works with the Leadership Institute.