Speech First is a new civil liberties watchdog nonprofit group has as its primary aim to loosen restrictions on free speech on American college campuses throughout the US. Speech First filed its first lawsuit in federal court Tuesday against the University of Michigan, according to one of their spokespersons, on behalf of three students who did not want their names to be released in fear of retaliation. The nonprofit is asserting that the University of Michigan’s definition of harassment is overly encompassing and forbids speech that would usually be protected. The definition of harassment that is in is referenced in the student handbook. Speech First also considers the way the university defines “bias” to be limiting.
Freedom of Speech Is Being Attacked
According to one of their spokespersons, Speech First has sued the University of Michigan, alleging its speech code is overly broad and unconstitutional. “A student whose speech is seen by another student as hurtful to his or her feelings may receive a knock on the door from a team of school officials threatening to refer the student for discipline unless he or she submits ‘restorative justice,’ ‘individualized education,’ or ‘unconscious bias training,’” a news release from Speech First states.
Speech First filed the lawsuit in federal court Tuesday according to their spokesperson. The nonprofit is asserting that Michigan’s definition of harassment, which is referenced in the student conduct code, is overly encompassing and forbids speech that would usually be protected. The fight over free speech on campuses has been brewing for the last few years in America as students and teachers have been becoming more polarized in the ideals. Demonstrations have been happening on college campuses where students refuse to allow speakers with opposing views to complete their speeches. Freedom of speech seems to be hanging by a very tenuous thread on our college campuses today.
A representative of the University said on Tuesday that it had not yet been served a copy of the lawsuit and declined to comment. Speech First is asking the court to declare the Michigan speech code unconstitutional and block the bias response system. The Speech First spokesperson also noted that approximately 200 college campuses have the similar types of speech codes and bias response systems already in place so this is just the opening battle in what is going to be an on-going war.