Wednesday, August 10, 2022

ACLU files request

June 27, 2001

The Lansing-area chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed another Freedom Of Information Act request for the university’s files regarding the undercover police infiltration of Students for Economic Justice on Monday.

Henry Silverman, president of the ACLU Lansing-area chapter and an MSU history professor, said the ACLU is not trying to make a nuisance of itself.

“We are not trying to harass the university, we are simply trying to find out if there was any reason for this action,” he said.

Silverman said the ACLU will push the case as far as possible, even if it means going to court.

More than a year ago, an MSU police officer posed as a student to join United Students Against Sweatshops, now SEJ, to gather information about the organization.

University officials have claimed the investigation was started because of concerns after protests in Seattle and Washington, D.C., turned violent. They have also claimed it was related to a “specific unidentified subject” involved in the 1999 Agriculture Hall arson.

The ACLU originally filed a FOIA request April 24, but ACLU and SEJ members were not satisfied with the response, which came May 17 and included several public statements made by university officials and police officers regarding the intent of the undercover operation.

Silverman and the ACLU have raised some of their concerns to MSU’s Board of Trustees.

In response, a letter written by Trustee Colleen McNamara, dated June 8, said the university has no specific “policy governing undercover police investigations.”

McNamara said she knows nothing of a new FOIA.

“I can understand the ACLU’s interest in students’ rights,” she said. “I have chosen to wait until this committee gets done with whatever they are investigating.”

McNamara said in the fall the board will probably enact a policy regarding the investigation of students and student groups.

SEJ member and history senior Michael Krueger said the last response didn’t give any information, and both he and Silverman are not optimistic there will be different results this time.

“I don’t think they are going to give us the information we want, we just have to sit here and hope for the best,” Krueger said.

University spokesman Terry Denbow said he could not comment on the new request for information.

“The first response was appropriately responsive to their questions,” he said.

MSU’s FOIA coordinator, Kristine Zayko, could not be reached for comment.

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