Correction appended: An earlier version of this story said the Daily’s editorial board sent a letter to LSA. It did not. The Daily’s senior editors sent a letter to LSA condemning the proposed policy.
Facing mounting opposition from student publications and organizations, the College of Literature, Science and the Arts scrapped yesterday a proposed distribution policy that would have regulated which groups could distribute fliers and publications and post informational signs in LSA buildings.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said yesterday in an e-mail to Andrew Grossman, editor in chief of The Michigan Daily and Michael O’Brien, editor in chief of The Michigan Review, that the policy had been “withdrawn from consideration.”
Neither Cunningham nor Bob Johnston, the director of LSA’s Facilities and Operations office, could be reached for further comment last night. Members of student publications and organizations on campus praised the decision.
Grossman said he was pleased with the decision to drop the policy and commended University officials for taking into account the concerns voiced by various student publications and organizations.
He cited a letter sent last month by the Daily’s senior editors to Johnston urging him to either drastically revise or completely drop the distribution policy.
The letter said the policy would negatively impact the Daily and obstruct all forms of student-created expression in LSA buildings.
“The Daily will not support any policy that unnecessarily limits the rights of student publications to distribute in LSA buildings, even if that policy makes special allowances for the Daily and other well-established newspapers,” the letter said.
Grossman said he had little contact with LSA regarding the policy, other than writing the letter.
He said he had planned to meet with officials from the Facilities and Operations Office, but the meeting – and also a separate student forum to discuss the policy – never materialized.
O’Brien declared the announcement “a victory for all the different student publications on campus and a victory for the First Amendment.” He singled out student publications like the Review and the Daily for their coverage of the policy and its potential impact on students’ free speech rights, which sparked discussion both on and off campus.
“We really made sure there was as broad of an awareness as possible in the pool of concerned constituents,” he said.
Still, O’Brien said he doubted whether the scrapped policy was the last students would see of University policies aimed at regulating how student publications and organizations can distribute print material on campus.
“They should let things be or should work with student groups to address the litter problem,” he said. But he added, “They’ll make an attempt at some other similar policy down the road.”
Michigan Student Assembly president Mohammad Dar said he believed the decision to drop the policy to be the correct one.
“I’m happy to see policy in its current form was repealed,” he said. “The free speech rights of not only student publications, but all students on campus should be paramount.”
The policy would have mandated that all publications and organizations fall under the oversight of the Board for Student Publications – which manages the Gargoyle humor magazine, the Michiganensian yearbook and The Michigan Daily – or be registered with the Michigan Student Assembly in order to distribute or post student-created print material in an LSA building.
Johnston said last month that the policy was created to reduce the amount of discarded papers scattered on the floors in LSA buildings.
If people walking in LSA buildings slipped on the loose papers and injured themselves, Johnston said, it could create a possible liability for the University.
Although the legal experts said the policy veered “dangerously close” to infringing on students’ free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, Johnston said the policy, the product of two years worth of discussions, was meant to help less established publications better distribute their work.
He emphasized that the policy was in no way created in order to censor the content of student-created material.
“My office isn’t in the business of restricting content, and LSA isn’t in the business of restricting content, either,” he said.