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Posted on Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 12:50 p.m.

University of Michigan trespass policy under review

By Juliana Keeping

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman has directed the legal office to review the school’s trespass policy.

“Rest assured that finding the appropriate legal balance between safety and free speech is a goal that I share with you,” Coleman wrote in a Nov. 24 letter to Mallory Jones and Bennett Stein, student leaders of the undergraduate chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The review process follows a series of events involving a state assistant attorney general, who is a U-M alumni, and U-M's student body president. Attorney General Mike Cox fired Andrew Shirvell after the assistant attorney general followed Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong for several months to protest the student’s so-called “radical gay agenda,” kept a blog called “Chris Armstrong Watch” and heckled Armstrong at public speaking events. Armstrong is the first openly gay student body president at the school.

Shirvell was banned from campus, although the order was later modified.

Coleman issued a statement Sept. 30 that said U-M "has called upon others in positions of authority to take all appropriate action to address this situation." A U-M spokesman declined to elaborate at the time.

Civil rights attorneys first raised questions about the constitutionality of the trespass policy in an Oct. 24 report by that detailed the university's use of the policy.

Each of U-M’s 56 sworn police officers have discretion to read or mail trespass warnings. The policy permanently bans a person from campus and various other properties throughout the state and nation. Police also can ban individuals from smaller areas like a building floor, a whole building or a section of campus.

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Andrew Shirvell is shown in this file photo from the Michigan Daily.

Only the director of public safety can modify the warning. Individuals also can bring grievances to an elected, independent police oversight committee of U-M students, faculty and staff members, but the committee’s powers are advisory only.

The state chapter of the ACLU threatened to bring about a lawsuit over the policy in mid-November.

Michael Steinberg, an Ann Arbor resident and legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, said U-M violated Shirvell’s free speech and due process rights under the policy. 

Around the same time, the student chapter of the ACLU sent a Nov. 16 e-mail to Department of Public Safety Police Director Ken Magee and Coleman asking for the policy to be narrowed and revised in a way that free speech and assembly rights would be protected. Magee has since gone on extended sick leave.

"We’re encouraged by the university’s decision to review the policy, and that we will work with them and the students to ensure that constitutional policy is developed that recognizes the free speech and due process,” Steinberg said Tuesday.

U-M student Mallory Jones, chair of the student ACLU group, echoed that sentiment.

"Our group was very pleased by the response from President Coleman, and we are looking forward to continuing to work with the university to construct a trespass policy that protects the civil rights of individuals while maintaining campus safety," she said via e-mail.

U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the letter from students prompted Coleman's response.

“I have asked the university’s Vice President and General Counsel, Suellyn Scarnecchia, to take the lead in a thorough review of the trespass policy,” the letter from Coleman states. "She has assured me that she will seek input and review of any proposed changes from interested individuals and organizations, including yours.”

Juliana Keeping is a health and environment reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Mon, Dec 27, 2010 : 7:16 a.m.

I wonder what if anything their trespass policy states when it comes to crazy people? Have they learned any lessons from VA Tech? How do they plan to protrct the student from a Cho happenning on this campus???


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 8:34 p.m.

This is a belated thanks to the ACLU for diligently going after the Big 'U' over the more Orwellian provisions of their trespass policy. It's great that civil liberties activists found a way to make lemonade out of the otherwise rancid lemon that is Andrew Shirvell's bizarre campaign against Chris Armstrong.


Wed, Dec 22, 2010 : 11:26 p.m.

When did William R. Bess leave or retire? He was the DPS director before Magee. Who is in charge U-M DPS now?


Wed, Dec 22, 2010 : 1:12 p.m.

"unlikely to come up in this particular discussion." I said all of the Constitution not just the 2nd and that's my point, it should as it is related.


Wed, Dec 22, 2010 : 8:32 a.m.

rice...the "right" to pistol pack on campus ( or to get student association funding for active militia groups) is unlikely to come up in this particular discussion. sorry!


Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 6:21 p.m.

"Were encouraged by the universitys decision to review the policy, and that we will work with them and the students to ensure that constitutional policy is developed that recognizes the free speech and due process, Steinberg said Tuesday. ACLU, how about the rest of the Constitution. How about you work to get those recognized, not just the FIRST?

Juliana Keeping

Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 5:27 p.m.

I've updated the story with comments from the ACLU of Michigan's director Michael Steinberg and the student ACLU chair, U-M student Mallory Jones.


Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 5:15 p.m.

The University of Michigan is an educational institution. The purpose of its campus is to provide the facilities for its mission. This requires that most of these facilities (other than outdoor spaces) be off-limits to outsiders, except by invitation, and be free of disruption (classrooms, labs, offices). Others are open to the public at appropriate times, with regulations as to acceptable behavior and often with fees (athletic fields, theaters, libraries). Even in the Quad, the university community is entitled to function unhindered, without harassment. There is no shortage of public spaces in Ann Arbor, where people can harangue and demonstrate to their heart's content, which is what free speech is supposed to be about. There is no constitutional right to untrammeled confrontational misbehavior and to trample on the rights of others.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 4:11 p.m.

...which is all the more reason to have a narrow scope of who is on campus legitimately. Less room for discriminatory "discretion."

rusty shackelford

Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 4 p.m.

The policy could and should be pretty simple. Anyone who is not on UM grounds for legitimate business with the U is trespassing. OK, legitimate business can be interpreted broadly including exercising federal depository access rights at the library, attending events open to the public (including sports), attending events at which they are guests located at rented university spaces, etc. But there's no reason John Q. Prole has the inherent "right" to wander around aimlessly any campus building he wants to anymore than he can do the same at any other State of Michigan office, even though those are "public" buildings.


Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 3:54 p.m.

steve h... I was simply thinking of some of the most egregious...and rightly banned from campus..folks, who happen not to be currently affiliated with the UM. When students and employees likewise warrant such action, i'm fine with 'bye-bye'ing them too, but review/disciplinary procedures already in existence would have to be followed that are more complicated than those for non- UM ers.

Steve Hendel

Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 3:44 p.m.

Thanks Ed, but for those of us who don't want to 'make a meal' out of this, can you derive ANY conclusion?

Steve Hendel

Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 3:40 p.m.

@bedrog: why the distinction between University and non-University affiliated people? Stalking and/or harassment either or are not grounds to 'trespass' (vt) someone, especially on (lest we forget) public property.

Juliana Keeping

Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 3:17 p.m.

@af3201sps, Thanks for raising this point. I have asked for more information from Diane Brown, campus police spokesperson for DPS. She said via e-mail that public safety officers for the Health System are not sworn, certified officers, but public safety officers who do not carry guns and make arrests. I asked, but she has not yet answered whether or not they can read trespass warnings like the 56 sworn DPS officers. She suggested I ask U-M Health System PR staff how many of them there are, which I am doing. I'll keep checking in and let you know.


Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 2:42 p.m.

those non- university affiliated individuals who stalk, and those who repeatedly disrupt/heckle invited speakers/events should remain 'trespassed' the least.


Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 2:38 p.m.

@Julianna Thank you for keeping folks aware of this issue. You stated, "Each of U-Ms 56 sworn police officers have discretion to read or mail trespass warnings". One problem that should be noted is that not only does the UM have a police force who are state trained and certified police officers, but also have security guards who are employed at the UM Hospitals and UM Housing buildings. These security guards are NOT trained police officers but dress and portray themselves as police officers. They have NO police powers and are no different than a security guard at the mall. The issue is that these folks have the power ALSO to trespass people from UM property for ANY reason they deem necessary. If the UM modifies its trespass policy, it should only allow sworn police officers to use this as a last resort and the security guards should have to call a UM police officer to trespass an individual. This is the case in Ann Arbor. If someone needs to be trespassed from a property, an Ann Arbor police officer must be summoned to issue the trespass, not mall security or any other private security guard. It would be interesting for you to get the statistics on how many people are trespassed from the UM Medical campus by the security guards from the hospital and then to find out how many of those trespass warnings are overturned because people need and deserve medical care. Hopefully the UM will take a hard look at limiting the use of their trespass warning.


Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 2:28 p.m.

I hope they will also look up the bullying and discrimination in these no-trespass cases.


Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 2:12 p.m.

This legal review is a step in the right direction. To think that 3,300 individuals are banned from University of Michigan property is an affront to a free society. I applaud the efforts of the ACLU in these regards.