This summer, Michigan State University sparked a heated discussion when they proposed shortening their fall 2009 semester. Student government and University Committee on Student Affairs member Kara Spencer condemned the idea by writing a personal response to the proposal and emailing it to 391 faculty members. According to the university’s bulk email policy, Spencer had violated their anti-spam guidelines and would have to undergo formal investigation.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education took on the case, arguing that Spencer was exercising her right to free speech. The emails were not inherently disruptive, they claimed, and should not fall into the category of spam. FIRE’s letter to MSU officials called their actions a “threat to free expression” and “legally and morally unacceptable.”
More than three months after the initial incident, Spencer was found guilty by the Student-Faculty Judiciary, who placed a formal warning in her student file.
“MSU's decision defies the First Amendment, fairness, and common sense,” according to Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program. “MSU is effectively preventing the campus community from sending e-mails criticizing the administration to more than an extremely small fraction of the MSU community. The university should be ashamed, and the president should immediately overturn this illiberal finding.”