U-M calls free-speech lawsuit allegations ‘a false caricature’

The University of Michigan fired back Friday against a lawsuit filed by the advocacy group Speech First Inc., calling the suit “a false caricature” of the university’s free speech policies and practices.

The lawsuit alleges U-M has adopted policies that chill the expression of conservative political views on the Ann Arbor campus. But the university’s response, filed in U.S District Court, suggests that Speech First has dramatically misstated university policies and how they have been implemented.

U-M lists scores of national speakers and campus forums, dozens of articles in student publications and several student organizations that have clearly expressed the conservative political views the lawsuit espouses are suppressed.

“The principal policy that Speech First challenges — the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities — begins with a strong commitment to ‘freedom of expression,’ noting that the university’s ‘long tradition of student activism and … freedom of expression … includes voicing unpopular views and dissent,’” the court filing reads.

The university’s response to the lawsuit further says “the university’s implementation of its policies has been completely faithful to this overriding commitment. And, in fact, the actual intellectual life on campus includes student groups, student publications, and outside speakers who are comfortable advocating and debating strongly held and sometimes controversial views across the full ideological spectrum.”

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