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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

NMU receives Jefferson Center “Muzzle” Award

Northern Michigan University has been named a recipient of the 2016 “Muzzle” Award by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. The Charlottesville, Virginia based nonprofit serves as a watchdog and advocate for the “defense of free expression in all its forms.”

Since 1992, the Jefferson Center has distributed “Muzzle” Awards to “individuals and institutions responsible for the more egregious or ridiculous affronts to free speech during the preceding year,” according to a press release distributed by the organization. This year, NMU joins ranks with universities like the University of Tulsa, Duke University, Yale, Northwestern and many others that have had incidents.

According to Derek Hall, assistant vice president for university marketing and communications, the relationship between The North Wind and the administration is very different from what it was a year ago when relations were strained by controversy.

“[Based on] what we’ve learned from last year’s experience, we’ve been able to make changes on the administrative side and look at how we handle requests,” Hall said. “This year has been a great year working with The North Wind. We’ve re-established positive relationships in spite of tough stories.”

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During NMU’s 2014-15 school year, The North Wind quarreled with administrators, the school Board of Trustees and the paper’s Board of Directors over the content and tone of the paper. The months-long controversy received national publicity from news outlets like the Journal of Higher Education, the Detroit Free Press and the Huffington Post, as well as support from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education (FIRE) and the Student Press Law Center.

“The incident at NMU was consistent with what we observed on campuses around the country last year: a pervasive anti-speech sentiment among many administrators and students alike,” said Clay Hansen, assistant director for the Jefferson Center. “We don’t yet know why it was able to spread so widely, so quickly, or how lasting it will ultimately turn out to be, but there is no doubt that, left unchecked, these attitudes could render our most reliable bastions of free expression nearly unrecognizable.”

According to the release, the Jefferson Center normally awards between eight and 12 “Muzzles” each year, but 2015 took the organization by surprise. At universities across the country, both students and administrators have allegedly taken an unprecedented turn against free speech, such as at Southern Illinois University, where students petitioned to disinvite Ill. Gov. Bruce Rauner from speaking at the commencement ceremony. At the University of Missouri, an assistant media professor drew outrage for trying to remove a student journalist from a large public protest on campus.

“Never in our 25 years of awarding the Jefferson Muzzles have we observed such an alarming concentration of anti-speech activity as we saw last year on college campuses across the country,” the release stated. “We are therefore awarding Jefferson Muzzles to 50 colleges and universities[…]both as an admonishment for the acts already done and a reminder that it is not too late to change course.”

According to Hall, the university administration’s relationship with The North Wind has changed course.

“We treat the campus newspaper like any media outlet,” Hall said. “Last year was a tough year, and we’re glad we’ve rebounded from it and had a good year.”

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