Here's the latest news on the Jake Baker case, as best I understand them.
If I heard the nightly news correctly (WDIV Detroit), Mr. Baker has been arrested by the FBI not on pornography charges but on the grounds that he conspired with a Canadian friend to kidnap a female student living in his dorm. It seems that the FBI has a detailed conversation between the two in which they discuss how to kidnap the woman and sneak her out of the dorm "in one of those portable lockers." It was unclear from the news account whether this conversation was verbal, email, or on netnews. Canadian authorities are searching for the friend, who they believe is still in Canada.
I didn't catch what happened at the hearing today, but it is a safe bet he is still suspended as a student.
Much of the following information comes from articles by Ronnie Glassberg and Cathy Boguslaski in the Michigan Daily, 2/9/95.
David Cahill, Baker's attorney, is protraying the case as a pure freedom of speech issue. Baker insists that he did not personally know the woman named as the victim in his story. Cahill claims inconsistency in the University's interpretation of FERPA, which guarantees privacy of academic records. Maureen Hartford (VP for student affairs) allowed Julie Keenan (President of MSA, the student government) to read Baker's pornographic story. University spokesperson Lisa Baker claimed that Jake Baker gave up his rights to privacy by posting the story to the Internet. This contrasts with the University's application of FERPA to the student code hearings, which are considered so private that plaintiffs and defendants are not allowed recordings or transcripts of the proceedings.
Joan Lowenstein, a Communications lecturer at the University who teaches a course in First Amendment law. Lowenstein cites the Supreme Court ruling of "community standards" from Miller_vs._California, and notes that what Baker wrote is similar to that found in _Hustler_, which is available in Ann Arbor. "The University claims it's a threat," said Lowenstein. "If he's done nothing other that write this piece, we're talking about speech here. If he's done one other thing, like knock on her door or try to follow her to class or send her a Valentine's Day card, one other act, then it's not speech, but conduct."
University spokesperson Lisa Baker claimed the case was about invasion of privacy, not censorship of pornography. Lowenstein said that the courts have not upheld convictions for invasion of privacy or libel in similar cases, since it was obvious that the stories were fictional.
[SSRR = Student Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (aka Code)]
[FOIA = Freedom of Information Act]
[MSA = Michigan Student Assembly (undergraduate student government)]
[SRC = Students' Rights Commission of the MSA]
In a related article, "Controversy Surrounds Code" in the Michigan Review by Greg Parker, it was reported that persistent Michigan Daily reporters obtained the official recording of the Lavie vs. Welch (LvW) SSRR hearing through a FOIA request. The LvW case is the one in which Judicial Advisor Mary Lou Antieau acted as prosecutor, judge, and advisor to the jury. Welch was found guilty of harassment for repeatedly complaining to a neighbor that his cigarette smoke came through the walls of her apartment. Evidence rules in the SSRR were broken in the LvW case. Welch was denied legal representation and a recording of the hearing. Welch plans a civil suit against the University.
I hereby quote several paragraphs directly from the article:
MSA Rep. Fiona Rose said that the "[SSRR] strips students of their civil liberties and of their constitutionally enumerated rights. By denying students open hearings, denying them attorney representation, and denying them access to hearing transcripts for public usage, the SSRR compromises our rights as United States residents and as University of Michigan students."I have been informed that the Detroit Free Press is available online via Compuserve, if you would like to see details of this case from a real (that is, other than me) news source.
Ethan Kirschner, chair of the Students' Civil Liberties Watch, agreed. "Our question to the administration is not only 'what justifies the need for a non-academic code,' but also, 'can they administer it impartially and fairly.' It's our position that they have shown neither. And the way that they administer the Code must be fundamentally changed if the Code is to remain."
[Vince] Keenan [, chair of the SRC,] questioned the University's motives, stating, "There must be a clear and rational explanation as to why the University should be threatening a student's academic efforts to get some kind of non-academic conduct."
For those that have emailed me, I will reply to your messages Real Soon Now (tm). My apologies for my slow response.
| Peter J. Swanson | firstname.lastname@example.org |
| PhD Candidate | controls specialist |
| Electrical Engineering:Systems | impact, chaotic motion, |
| University of Michigan | vibratory part orientation |