DOJ challenges the constitutionality of university speech codes
The Trump administration weighed in Monday on a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of policies prohibiting the expression of “bias” at University of Michigan, arguing the public school has been unlawfully punishing students for speech protected by the First Amendment.While the school denies the charges, colleges, and universities have given the impression that they are intolerant of conservative speech and try to either stop it or heard it into an area where it is not heard by a large audience.
In a statement of interest, the Justice Department said the Ann Arbor university has imposed a “system of arbitrary censorship of, and punishment for, constitutionality protected speech.”
“The University’s policies prohibit speech that any listener finds ‘bothersome’ or ‘hurtful’ — an overbroad, vague, and subjective standard that is a paradigmatic example of the chilling of free expression prohibited by the First Amendment,” the statement of interest read.
In a statement, acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio said freedom of speech and expression “are under attack” on college campuses.
“This Justice Department, under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is committed to promoting and defending Americans’ first freedom at public universities,” Mr. Panuccio said.
The lawsuit said the university’s Bias Response Team has investigated more than 150 incidents of bias since April 2017. The unit has allegedly responded to reports of bias by removing flyers and posters, erasing whiteboards and investigating students and professors for their remarks.
The lawsuit claimed the Bias Response Teams’ determinations are “completely subjective,” citing the university’s declaration that the “most important indication of bias is your own feelings.”
There have also been signs that restrictions on speech were only getting worse at the University of Michigan.
The school announced in April that it would amend its Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities to prohibit “bias-related misconduct.”