Greg in ‘The Huffington Post’ on Michigan State
December 19, 2008
FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has posted an article on The Huffington Post about Michigan State's finding that student Kara Spencer was guilty of sending "spam" when she e-mailed faculty members with her views about a change in the freshman orientation and academic calendars. As Greg says:
MSU's decision is both outrageous and unsettling for many reasons. First of all, unlike the common understanding of "spam," Spencer's e-mail wasn't commercial speech -- instead, it dealt with a matter of concern for any student or faculty member. Fewer school days means students are paying the same (if not more) for less, while professors are expected to cover the same material in less time.
Lots of us get spam e-mails. Few of us are able to do very much about them besides using various spam-blocking methods to try to keep the spam under control. But only places like Michigan State have the ability to actually punish those whose e-mails might contain something they don't care for others to hear—for instance, an objection to a plan to get students to pay the same amount of money (if not more) for fewer days in school. Whatever the reason, Michigan State's actions were enough to get an extraordinary coalition of more than a dozen civil liberties organizations to co-sign an open letter to Michigan State's president condemning the university's actions. Greg's article talks about this and more in his discussion of the ongoing shameful situation in East Lansing.