ACLU Urges U. of Michigan to Lift Ban on Political Canvassing


The American Civil Liberties Union has sent a letter urging the University of Michigan to amend its written policy banning students from campaigning for political causes and elections within the residence halls.

“The right to discuss the most important political questions of this generation is a fundamental right, and nowhere should it be more cherished and protected than at our universities,” said Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan legal director in the organization’s March 17 press release.

The release further states that according to the student manual, the university only allows political candidates to canvass in the dorms and makes an exception for non-partisan voter registration drives. During the 2008 presidential campaign, when the College Democrats raised constitutional questions about the policy, the university allowed students to canvass in their own residence hall.

However, the university never amended its written policy after the 2008 election. Additionally, it recently sent out an E-mail to dorm residents in connection with the Michigan Student Assembly elections suggesting that it will only permit candidates to campaign in the dorms.

“The dialogue that we share with our neighbors and peers makes the University a vibrant, stimulating community,” said Bennett Stein of the U-M Undergraduate ACLU chapter. “The current policy infringed upon our rights as students in 2008 and, if not changed immediately, will prove equally detrimental to campaign efforts in 2010.”

The University housing code states that students who violate the no-canvassing policy could be charged with criminal trespass and excluded from any university residence hall. If a student organization violates this policy, it can be fined any amount determined by the Housing Administration.

In its letter, the ACLU asked to meet with University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and her staff to develop a policy that explicitly allows students to speak with other students door-to-door in the residence halls about elections and other political causes.

To read the press release, click here.

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