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Kalamazoo Peace Center v. Dunn

From October 2014 to May 2015
Western Michigan University (Public college or university)
Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • Jessica Clark
    Student
    Other

    Co-director of the Kalamazoo Peace Center.

  • Nola Wiersma
    Student
    Other

    Co-director of the Kalamazoo Peace Center.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Recognized student group event
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
    University administration changes university policy as a consequence of event
    Litigation
  • Incident Status:
    Settled
  • No protest Occured
  • Did not involve Speech Codes

Summary

The plaintiffs, a Western Michigan University student organization and its directors, attempted to host Boots Riley, a musician and activist, to deliver a speech on social justice ideas and tactics. WMU initially told them they would not be allowed to host the event in campus facilities, despite the fact that the University’s Room Reservation policy does not provide for denial on the basis of any consideration other than availability for use. WMU officials later decided that if the plaintiffs wanted to utilize campus facilities, they would be required to pay for a police presence as event security due to concerns over the potential campus reaction to the speech. This determination was based on WMU’s Event Security Policy, which grants full authority to the University to make determinations regarding the need for security, and provides no criteria or guidelines for determining the necessary level of security or the proper fee to be imposed to provide for that security. The organization was ultimately forced to hold the event off-campus instead. Due to the inability to determine where the event would be held until very late in the process, and WMU’s Flyer/Poster Guidelines, which required that any postings meet certain standards and include the location of the event, the plaintiffs were unable to advertise for the event on campus until shortly before the event was held. The plaintiffs then filed suit in the Western District of Michigan, requesting the court issue declaratory judgment and injunctive relief assuring plaintiffs’ ability to engage in free speech without unconstitutional University interference. The plaintiffs also brought § 1983 claims alleging as-applied violations of the plaintiffs’ free speech rights under the University’s Room Reservation and Event Security policies, and facial challenges to both the Event Security Policy and the Flyer/Poster Guidelines, which plaintiffs claimed constituted invalid prior restraint of plaintiffs’ free speech rights. The plaintiffs and the University ultimately agreed to a settlement in 2015, under which the University agreed to pay $35,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees and to make changes to its events policy to bring it into compliance with the First Amendment.