The legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is raising questions about the constitutionality of the Department of Public Safety’s trespass policy in light of its recent trespass order against Andrew Shirvell — the former Michigan assistant attorney general known for his derisive criticisms of Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong.
Michael Steinberg, legal director for the ACLU of Michigan, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily on Friday that he hopes the University will alter the policy to better follow the Constitution without the need for a lawsuit.
“We are not ready to file a suit right now, but we are reviewing it and seriously researching the issue,” Steinberg said. “We are seriously considering developing a case, but we hope that it won’t be necessary.”
Once a trespass order is issued it can only be lifted or modified through a meeting with the DPS director.
Steinberg said the Michigan ACLU finds the trespass policy problematic because it is worded in a way that allows for the possibility of the abuse of power.
“We have problems with the broad discretion given to DPS officials to essentially ban a person from participating in free speech activities for life on campus,” he said. “It could lead to unnecessarily denying individuals the right to free speech.”
In an interview after the University Board of Regents meeting yesterday, University President Mary Sue Coleman said she thinks it is “appropriate” for the Office of General Council to review the trespass policy to determine if it needs to be updated.
Coleman added that creating the policy involves balancing a variety of concerns.
“You’re always walking this fine line,” Coleman said.
Shirvell was given a trespass order and banned from campus on Sept. 14 after he showed up to multiple campus events, including an MSA meeting, where he called for Armstrong to resign. Prior to appearing on campus, Shirvell attacked Armstrong on his blog called Chris Armstrong Watch and accused the MSA President of promoting a “radical homosexual agenda” on campus.
On Nov. 5, DPS modified its trespass order against Shirvell. He is now allowed on campus, though he can’t appear at events that it’s reasonably expected Armstrong will attend and he must leave any event where he sees Armstrong present.
The University’s undergraduate chapter of the ACLU sent a letter to Coleman and DPS director Ken Magee Tuesday, condemning DPS’s actions toward Shirvell and asked the University to review its trespass policy. In the letter, ACLU-UM officials said they believe the current trespass policy allows the DPS director “wide discretion in issuing trespass bans.”
— Daily News Editor Kyle Swanson contributed to this report.