Reed v. Neiheisel

From October 2014 to July 2015
Northern Michigan University (Public college or university)
Marquette, MI, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • Michael Williams

    Michael Williams was Managing Editor of the North Wind.

  • Cheryl Reed

    Cheryl Reed was the faculty Journalistic Advisor to the the North Wind.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Recognized student group event
  • Incident Political Orientation:
  • Incident Responses:
  • Incident Status:
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


Michael Williams was Managing Editor of the North Wind, a student newspaper at Northern Michigan University (NMU), and Cheryl Reed was the faculty Journalistic Advisor to that publication. In October and November of 2014, and again in March 2015, the North Wind published a number of controversial articles—one about a contract between NMU and Starbucks, another about sexual assault on campus, and a third that was critical of the travel expenses incurred by members of the university board of trustees.

On April 3, 2015, the newspaper’s board of directors decided not to approve Reed as the Journalistic Advisor for the 2015-2016 school year, despite her having been selected by the English department. Williams applied to the board directors for the position of Editor, but after his interview, he was not selected. The reasons for these two board decisions were hotly contested.

Williams and Reed filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan against members of the board and university administrators, alleging a pattern of conduct designed to chill their First Amendment rights and retaliation against them for the exercise of the First Amendment rights. They sought a preliminary injunction retaining Reed in the Journalistic Advisor role.

Asserting that “if indeed the defendants were motivated in the action they took by the editorial content of the North Wind, they were only doing their job as required by the by-laws,” the court denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction on July 13, 2015. On July 20, Reed and Williams voluntarily dismissed the case.