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College Student Vindicated After Political Email Sparks Disciplinary Action

PRESS RELEASE
January 28, 2009
Michigan State University Clears Student Government Leader

East Lansing, MI - A Michigan State University (MSU) student government leader has been cleared of any charges of wrongdoing after the school falsely labeled her a spammer for sending out a political email to faculty members. MSU has also agreed to revise its Network Acceptable Use Policy to ensure that it is fair and constitutional.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represented the student, Kara Spencer, after she was brought before a disciplinary committee for sending an email raising concerns about a controversial change in MSU's school calendar to approximately 400 faculty members. MSU's "acceptable use" email policy bans political statements sent to more than 20-30 recipients without prior approval of university officials.

EFF argued that the school's email policy was an unconstitutional restriction on the university community's free speech rights and had begun preparing a lawsuit on Ms. Spencer's behalf. EFF was referred the case by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

"We're pleased that MSU has reversed course and will not only drop the charge against Ms. Spencer, but will reconsider its flawed policies," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "When a school's anti-spam policy requires students to get approval before they discuss school policy with school officials, it has plainly left the realm of protecting against spam and has violated the Constitution."

MSU will also work with Spencer as a member of the University Committee for Student Affairs to change the email policy so it will respect students' free speech rights. EFF has offered to advise as well.

"The email that I sent wasn't spam. It was part of an important conversation about university issues of common concern," said Spencer. "I'm pleased that MSU has finally recognized my right to express my views. Unconstitutional attempts to curb campus political activism aren't just illegal. They are counter-productive to universities' educational mission."

For previous coverage of this issue:
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2008/12/eff-fire-and-others-urge-michigan-state-respect-st

Contacts:

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

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