Western Michigan University promised in federal court it would enact new free speech policies by May 28, 2015 but refused to publish them where students can find them.
In the middle of June, 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 enough, all three new policies (event space, event security, and posting) are there.
We remain puzzled as to why these policies, which have popped up on various corners of WMU’s website, can’t simply be posted on the Student Activities page where students are most apt to look, but at least they are in a reasonably logical place now.
We are grateful to the Kalamazoo Peace Center and its co-directors for having the courage to stand up for the First Amendment in court. FIRE would also like to thank our many supporters who helped us to convince WMU that you can’t agree to “enact” policies in a settlement and then not tell anyone what those policies are. We congratulate WMU on embracing (more or less) its new constitutional policies.
More work remains to be done, most importantly revising the 2015–16 RSO Handbook, to conform with these new policies. And WMU needs to scour its website for links to outdated versions that could confuse students. Presumably that will all be taken care of before the next school year starts in August.
As other Stand Up For Speech defendant-schools have discovered, FIRE is eternally vigilant when it comes to monitoring compliance with both the letter and spirit of agreements to respect free expression. Citrus College discovered that when it reinstated—and was forced to abandon—a laughably unconstitutional free speech zone ten years after FIRE supported a lawsuit that successfully challenged Citrus’ first attempt to quarantine the First Amendment. Modesto Junior College in California knows that as well, as we continue to expose its attacks on free expression.
So, WMU, you are on notice that FIRE is watching. Not only this year, but the next and the next—because our mission is to make sure that you, and all other public universities, understand that the First Amendment applies to you.