Know Your Rights: National Organizations that Help

Courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee from
Courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee from

Sometimes, universities don’t play by the rules.

About 130 universities including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Grand Valley State University are being investigated by the the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for how they handle sexual misconduct cases.

The firing of college newspaper advisers has been making headlines at Northern Michigan University  and Butler University.

While students may feel intimated to go against university administrators, there are non-profits and agencies to help students know their rights.

This article does not claim Central Michigan University or any institution is necessarily breaking the law or infringing on students rights. However, students should know what organizations to contact if they are concerned.

Foundation of Individual Rights in Higher Education

FIRE is a non-profit that defends students and faculty right to free speech, privacy and due process. They have helped many students at many universities including CMU fight for their first amendment rights. FIRE has even gone as far to sue universities on the behalf of students.

For example, FIRE  successfully sued Ohio University over a suggestive t-shirt meant to promote a student organization.

Student Press Law Center

For more than 40 years, SPLC has fought for the rights of high school and college journalists. While you may think SPLC would only help people working at a college newspaper, with the changing media landscape, more people are affected by media law.

For example, everybody can open a WordPress account and start their own news site (like CMU Insider). Anyone who makes social media post should be mindful of libel. Every member of the public is entitled to attend government meetings.

Like FIRE, SPLC has sued universities in the name of the first amendment. They also provided legal guides and an open records request generator.

Department of Education 

Every college student should be familiar with the Department of Education’s website. It has crucial information on student loans and grants. It also has information on laws that affect students, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and Higher Education Act. Furthermore, it details how to make a complaint if you feel civil rights have been violated. Many of the universities undergoing misconduct for responses to sexual misconduct occurred because of students submitting complaints to the Department of Education.

More “Know Your Rights” posts. 

“Know Your Rights: When Partying Goes Wrong”

“Know Your Rights: Apartment Living”

“Know Your Rights: Stalking”

Arielle Hines is the editor of CMU Insider. You can contact her at 

This is not intended to serve as official legal advice. Please contact an attorney if you need legal assistance. 


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