THE SITUATION AT MSU:
FREEDOM ISN'T UNIVERSAL
A MICHIGAN STATE student walked wearily from the Heritage Room of State's luxurious Kellogg Center and slumped into a leather chair. He had just finished witnessing in behalf of Paul Shciff before the Faculty Committee on Student Affairs.
"Do you have anything you'd like to say about the hearing for the Michigan Daily?" I asked.
"Sure," he snapped. "Tell them down there they ought to be damn thankful for whatever freedom they have. Tell them that they should be very grateful they are treated like human beings every once in a while."
The tone of his remarks resounded behind much of the murmured conversation going on in the anteroom. The content of his remarks was clarified in a statement made outside the hearing room by Stu Dowty of the Committee for Student Rights.
"We defend the right of the Young Americans for Freedom to distribute copies of Non Dare Call It Treason. We defend our own right to distribute copies of Logos. In effect, what we are fighting for is the right to freedom of press as guaranteed in the First Amendment. The only problem is that up here the First Amendment only applies to those people the administration decides to apply it to. We are threatened with police action when we distribute Logos."
PAUL SCHIFF was expelled from Michigan State University because he allegedly violated the university's distribution policy has a great deal to say about Michigan State itself.
When the Daily asked Dr. Eldon Nonnamaker of the Office of Student Activities for a clarification of State's policy on distribution, Dr. Nonnamaker pointed to a copy of the 1964-65 Spartan Guide. The guide, a hard book for student organizations states specifically that, "there shall be no door to door distribution of any nature." Shciff distributed copies of Logos door to door. The violation seems to be ridiculously clear.
Hugh Anderson, vice-chairman of the East Lansing Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, had some remarks to make, however, which put Schiff's case in a different light. "The university has never denied Anderson said, that three weeks after distribution, in May 11 issue of the State News, it was reported that President John Hannah had approved the rule on door to door distribution on May 10. "The rule at the time of the distribution was, as stated by Hannah in a letter to the American Civil Liberties Union in February, that there was no ban or bar on distribution of literature in dormitories or elsewhere."
THE STORY GOES ON. Schiff had been originally refused readmission to the university because he violated the distribution rules, because he participated in demonstration, and because he criticized the mayor of East Lansing in a public meeting. Someone evidently realized that a student can't be expelled for exercising his First Amendment rights, all of which are involved in the charges above, so a new charge was leveled against Schiff.
Michigan State decided that Schiff, who was admitted as a provisional student, had failed to satisfy the stipulations of his provisional acceptance. Mysteriously, Schiff had already been allowed to reregister for another term when this decision was made. Mysteriously, a copy of transcript indicating that his status had been changed from provisional to regular was "corrected" to return his status to that of a provisional student.
Schiff was not justly treated by Michigan State when he was refused readmission for exercising his First Amendment rights. Schiff was probably not justly treated when Michigan State accused him of misrepresenting his status as a student.
The wrong against Schiff will not be righted by less than a decision of Faculty Committee on Student Affairs offering him immediate readmission, the permanent removal of any slur of his character from his academic record, and an apology from President Hannah.
WHAT LESSON can be drawn from the case of Paul Schiff?
President Hatcher stated to a meeting of University alumni Tuesday, "as citizens, students have the same freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, and right of petition guaranteed to all citizens by our Constitution."
The administration of the University has endowed the student body of this institution with an atmosphere of democratic freedom of expression: to abuse either that freedom or its use by persons we consider mistaken or offensive is to invite the developments of an atmosphere like the one prevailing at Michigan State.
Wise students will receive this statement as a challenge to both responsible and active exercise of a freedom not everyone enjoys.
Reprinted from THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Editorials printed in THE MICHIGAN DAILY express the individual opinions of staff writers or the editors.