“an effort to help restore free speech and expression to America’s universities”
Speech First is an organization like FIRE, in that they combat abuses of free speech rights on college campuses. Now they have set their sights on the University of Texas.
From their website:
Speech First Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Four University of Texas Policies That Chill Student Speech
Speech First, a nonprofit membership association working to combat restrictions on free speech and other civil rights at colleges and universities across the United States, filed a lawsuit today against the University of Texas—Speech First v. Fenves et. al in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas—in an effort to help restore free speech and expression to America’s universities.
Through the use of four policies – the Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities ban on “verbal harassment,” the Acceptable Use Policy, the Residence Hall Manual, and the Campus Climate Response Team – the University of Texas has created an elaborate investigatory and disciplinary apparatus to suppress, punish, and deter speech that students may deem “offensive,” “biased,” “uncivil,” or “rude.” As used, these concepts capture staggering amounts of protected speech and expression because the school fails to provide sufficiently narrow definitions for these highly subjective terms – creating a serious risk that these provisions will be enforced in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner, or will be used to target speech based on the viewpoint expressed.
More than 100 reports of alleged “expressions of bias”—through posters, fliers, social media, whiteboards, verbal comments, classroom behavior, etc.—have been investigated by the university’s bias response team since September 2017. According to UT, examples of bias incidents may include “somebody … creat[ing] a hostile or offensive classroom environment,” “[d]erogatory comments made on a … course Facebook page,” “[h]ostile and insensitive treatment in interaction with a campus department/unit,” and “[s]tudent organizations participating in traditions perceived as insensitive or based on stereotypes[.]”
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