UMich caves after DOJ calls speech policies ‘unconstitutional’

After repeatedly insisting that a First Amendment lawsuit endorsed by the federal government was based on “mistaken premises,” the University of Michigan has revised its speech policies.

As Campus Reform originally reported, the free speech advocacy group Speech First filed a lawsuit against UM in May alleging that the university’s policies on harassment, bullying, and bias were “highly subjective” and unconstitutionally broad, to the point that they could cause students to censor themselves for fear of violating the obscure policies.

The lawsuit also objects to a provision in the school’s disciplinary code that imposes harsher penalties for “unwanted negative attention” that administrators deem to be motivated by “bias,” but UM countered with a court filing declaring that the lawsuit “mischaracterized” its actual policies.

The U.S. Department of Justice subsequently weighed in with a statement of interest agreeing with Speech First’s interpretation of the case, declaring that UM’s code of conduct is “unconstitutional” and that its bias response policy “chills protected speech” on campus.

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