A new student organization stepping into the college campus free speech fight wasted no time firing its first salvo by suing the University of Michigan over its speech code. In a lawsuit filed May 8, Speech First alleges the University of Michigan’s “vaguely worded” speech code protects hearers’ sensibilities at the expense of speakers’ constitutional right to free speech.
The lawsuit marks the first in what could be a series of legal battles brought by the group against offending campuses, Speech First president Nicole Neily told me.
“After looking at [the University of Michigan’s] policies, we discovered that they have not only a very bad, vaguely worded speech code … but they also had an extremely aggressive bias response team,” she said. “We determined that that combination of policies was toxic, as it chilled student speech and expression.”
The federal lawsuit details the University of Michigan’s attempts to keep the peace by intimidating its students—intentionally or not. School policy prohibits “harassment” and “bullying” but fails to succinctly define the terms. “Harassment” can be “unwanted negative attention perceived as intimidating, demeaning, or bothersome to an individual.”
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