Free speech group files lawsuit accusing UT-Austin of stifling student First Amendment rights

Speech First, a national group that advocates for free speech on college campuses, filed a federal lawsuit this week accusing UT-Austin of stifling students’ free speech rights.

The lawsuit specifically goes after UT’s speech policies, residence hall manuals and the Campus Climate Response Team, or CCRT. The suit said the speech policies and manuals, both of which prohibit verbal harassment, violate the First Amendment because they are too vague in their definitions of such behavior.

“The absence of clear standards creates 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,” the suit states.

Speech First also argues in the suit that the rules are so broad they are almost impossible to follow.

As a reporting and enforcement tool for harassment on campus, the suit alleges that the CCRT “chills” free speech because of the wide-ranging nature of the definitions of standards for “verbal harassment,” “incivility” and “rudeness.”

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