DOJ intervenes in lawsuit against University of Michigan’s speech codes

The Department of Justice this week took on another battle in its fight against campus speech and harassment codes that conservatives have criticized as infringements on their freedom of speech, as laid out last year by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

On Monday, it intervened in a lawsuit against the University of Michigan, saying its regulations unjustly silence unpopular or offensive viewpoints. 

“The University of Michigan proclaims on its website that ‘freedom of speech is a bedrock principle of our community and essential to our core educational mission as a university.’ Unfortunately, the university is failing to live up to that laudable principle,” the Department of Justice said in a “statement of interest,” a government friend-of-the-court brief.

“Instead of protecting free speech, the university imposes a system of arbitrary censorship of, and punishment for, constitutionally protected speech.”

In the brief, the department sided with Speech First, a Washington-based group that fights restrictions on free speech and other civil rights at colleges and universities. The lawsuit, which Speech First filed on May 8 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, alleges that the University of Michigan’s harassment, bullying and bias policies are overbroad and prohibit students from speaking for fear of discipline from the university’s bias response team, which comprises university administrators and officials.

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