… NMU [Northern Michigan University] students … have been told … that they could face disciplinary action for discussing their suicidal thoughts, according to an investigation and press release just published by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The ostensible goal of the policy is to “protect” students from other students’ suicidal thoughts and actions. But this policy, in addition to violating students’ free-speech rights, could also be doing serious harm to vulnerable students at NMU, according to mental-health experts.
After FIRE first caught wind of NMU’s policy and gathered some information about it, a senior program officer there, Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, sent NMU’s president, Fritz J. Erickson, and several other NMU administrators a letter, on August 25, laying out the recent history of the policy, and alerting administrators that it both — in FIRE’s view — violated students’ free-speech rights by prohibiting them from engaging in private discussions about a particular subject, and posed a potential mental-health risk in light of what researchers know about suicide risk factors. (The above emails, and much of the background information in this article, come from FIRE’s letter, which notes that as a public university NMU has stricter rules on its ability to curtail student speech than a private school would.)