Students, professors take fight to universities to protect free speech

Legal fights are breaking out across the nation over university policies that curtail the free speech of students and academic freedom of professors. The advocacy group Speech First last week filed a lawsuit against the University of Michigan challenging the constitutionality of the school’s Bias Response Teams and content-based restrictions on speech. Nicole Neily, president of Speech First, said the University of Michigan’s attitude toward free speech is representative of the higher education landscape. “Bias Response Teams are fundamentally un-American and have no place on college campuses,” Ms. Neily said Tuesday in a statement. “We have an epidemic on our hands in the higher education system — universities are establishing rules and protocols that create a dangerous environment in which free speech protections under the First Amendment no longer exist.” A spokesperson for the University of Michigan declined to comment. The lawsuit says the university’s Bias Response Team has investigated more than 150 “expressions of bias” since April 2017. “In connection with these investigations, the BRT has acted aggressively to censor what it considers ‘expression of bias,’” the lawsuit says. “For example, the BRT has taken down signs, removed flyers, confronted faculty members, erased speech on whiteboards, and interrogated students accused of expressions of bias (whom the University calls ‘offenders’).” The lawsuit argues that the determination of bias is “completely subjective,” citing the university’s declaration that the “most important indication of bias is your own feelings” and that bias-related incidents “do not always result in unfair treatment that violates nondiscrimination laws.” “Under this regime, the most sensitive student on campus effectively dictates the terms under which others may speak,” the lawsuit contends. There are also signs that the state of free expression at the University of Michigan is trending in the wrong direction. The university announced last month that it would amend its Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities to prohibit “bias-related misconduct.” Speech First believes this will have a “profound chilling effect on protected expression” because of the “utter lack of clear notice about the line between permissible and prohibited conduct.” Speech First is a member organization that represents students at colleges across the nation. Plaintiffs in Tuesday’s lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, are students who attend the University of Michigan. A sophomore quoted in the lawsuit said free speech is permitted on campus “only if your ideals align with those the University imposed on us.” “In other words, people have their right to freedom of speech and expression,” the student said, “but only until their beliefs no longer align with the so-called ‘correct’ beliefs, then people are not allowed to freely express those opinions.” Another student acknowledged hiding “my political views and opinions from nearly everyone I have encountered here at the university” out of fear of reprisal. A third student recounted being called a racist for supporting President Trump. “I was talking to a friend in the hallway today, [who] also supported Donald Trump, and someone was listening into our conversation,” the student said. “After about 30 seconds of my friend and I having a private discussion, we were both called racists, which is simply not true.” The Ann Arbor institution is not the only university facing a lawsuit over its policies toward speech.

Indeed..  And, that’s good.  Colleges and universities in America used to be where there was lively debate and exchanges of ideas.  Now, the pc police and speech Nazis have taken over and if you don’t publicly espouse the “proper” (liberal, politically correct) opinion, they’ll come after you.  And, it’s just getting worse.  We support Speech First and other groups taking the fight to these fascist educational administrations.

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