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Ann Mullen, (313) 400-8562,   

December 19, 2023


DETROIT - Today, the ACLU of Michigan sent a letter to the University of Michigan expressing concern with recent actions university officials have taken that have censored, suppressed, and punished student speech and advocacy relating to the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.  

The letter, which is addressed to university President Santa J. Ono and Vice President and General Counsel Timothy Lynch, details how the university canceled student elections on resolutions related to Palestine and Israel, restricted or shut down student email listservs on which students were discussing the international crisis, removed posters expressing support for Palestinians from graduate students’ office windows, and responded with aggressive policing and punitive discipline to a campus protest and sit-in.  

The letter also outlines nine steps that the university can take to demonstrate its commitment to open dialogue and the rights of its students to free speech and expression. 

Along with its letter, the ACLU submitted a public records request to the university seeking information about the decision-making process surrounding what appears to be an escalating pattern of suppression. 

“We are keenly aware of the harm, discrimination, and surveillance that has been experienced by many students—especially Jewish, Palestinian, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian students—as they consume the daily news, check on loved ones abroad, and navigate the turbulent campus environment,” the ACLU stated in its letter. “Nonetheless, universities are the cradle of our democracy. It is where students develop life-long critical thinking skills, where they test their ideas, and where they learn from each other—even when it is challenging, uncomfortable, or confrontational to do so. Hard times for democracy can be hard times on campus as well.” 

“Our concern is deepened by the fact that the university’s actions take place in the context of what many have described as a rising nationwide McCarthyite wave of retaliation against speech related to Palestine and Israel,” the letter adds, and calls on the university to clarify that it respects and protects the rights of students to engage in speech and debate regardless of their position or viewpoint. 

The entire letter and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request can be read below.