College Sued By Watchdog Group For Targeting Free Speech

On Thursday, the free speech advocacy group Speech First filed a lawsuit against Texas State University over policies intended to stifle free expression on campus.

According to the lawsuit filed by Speech First, students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated, which takes issue with the school’s Computer Policy and its Discriminatory Harassment Policy. 

The lawsuit claims the university’s computer policy forbids students from using university resources for political purposes, is “overbroad” and “vague.”  Speech First says the Discriminatory Harassment Policy, which prohibits “unwelcome conduct,” whether written, verbal, or through physical conduct, stifles speech and is “unconstitutional.”

Speech First represents three anonymous students who claim the restrictions violate their right to free expression. Three students, A, B, and C, “credibly worry that expressing their sincerely held beliefs is barred” and “want to engage in speech that is arguable covered by the University’s regulations.”

Cherise Trump, executive director of Speech First, said Texas State’s restrictions are geared to dissuade and restrict student speech. In a news release, Trump said, “Texas State administration have created a school dominated by fear where students are reluctant to discuss their opinions, engage with classmates, or even posit fresh ideas.” 

Speech First charges that Texas State has opted to foster the opposite of an atmosphere conducive to education, research, and free discussion. The university’s restrictive regulations on discussing current events and politics cause many students to avoid participating in class discussions altogether for fear of ‘offending’ others and being accused of harassment.

The lawsuit adds that the watchdog wants a declaratory injunction stating that both regulations violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments and for the court to prevent the university from enforcing them.

They claim to protect students while violating their First and Fourteenth Amendments.