The University of Michigan made some changes after the Department of Justice filed a statement backing a case against the school’s anti-harassment policy — removing a part of the policy that said that “the most important indication of bias is your own feelings.”
In a statement of interest for the Speech First, Inc., v. Schlissel case, the Justice Department stated that the university’s anti-bullying and harassment policy was “unconstitutional because it offers no clear, objective definitions of the violations” but rather “refers students to a wide array of ‘examples of various interpretations that exist for the terms,’ many of which depend on a listener’s subjective reaction to speech.”
The department’s brief, which was filed on Monday, also specifically took issue with the university’s Bias Response Team, arguing that the school’s subjective definition of “bias” gave students’ feelings too much authority in stifling speech.
“Our nation’s public universities and colleges were established to promote diversity of thought and robust debate, so we must not accept when they instead use their authority to stifle these principles on their campuses,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions is committed to promoting free speech on college campuses, and the Department is proud to have played a role in the numerous campus free speech victories this year.”
“The Justice Department will continue to seek opportunities to defend free speech — no matter the political ideology espoused — in order to defend our nation’s great traditions and the ability of its citizens to engage in meaningful discourse,” O’Malley continued.
U of M’s new definitions for bullying and harassment are now the same as those found in Michigan law.
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