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Michigan College Lands On Wrong Kind Of Top 10 List

Albion College’s intemperate handling of student’s foolish gag attracts attention of national free speech group

A First Amendment advocacy group included a small private liberal arts college in southern Michigan in its latest top 10 list for worst free speech policies in the country.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, named Albion College one of America’s 10 worst colleges for free speech for 2018. The group cited the way the college has investigated a student who sent an email to fellow members of a College Republicans group in which he joked about purchasing “ANTIFA and ISIS hunting permits and max[ing] out on tags.”

The investigation into the student, which began in fall 2017, has lasted nearly six months, with the college asking him to come back to campus over winter break for a hearing. According to FIRE, the student was told that if he didn’t make it back to the hearing, it would be held in his absence.

The January hearing lasted four hours. According to FIRE, the student was told he may have to wait weeks before learning whether he will face consequences for an email he sent in September. According to FIRE, the student was charged with violating Albion’s policy concerning the use or threat of physical force or violence.

“As far as FIRE knows, Alex Tokie is the only Albion student currently facing an investigation and potential punishment for his expression. However, a college’s treatment of one student can be egregious enough to earn a spot on our 10 worst list, and that was certainly the case here,” Sarah McLaughlin, a program associate at FIRE, told Michigan Capitol Confidential in a statement.

McLaughlin continued: “Albion’s treatment of Alex Tokie — putting him through a months-long investigation over a clearly hyperbolic email, demanding he return to campus over winter break, and leaving him in limbo regarding the outcome of his hearing — showed that the college failed to live up to its free speech commitments, and belonged on FIRE’s 10 worst list.”

Albion College did not respond to a phone call and an email requesting comment.

In 2017 FIRE named Northern Michigan University to its annual top 10 list of colleges with the worst free speech policies in American after the university threatened to disenroll a student for discussing self-harm with another student.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.