Chicago State shells out mega money to silence free speech lawsuit

  • Chicago State University has settled a 2014 lawsuit filed by two professors after the administration had told the professors to take down a post criticizing it.
  • The school must modify a policy which had banned “any communication which tends to embarrass or humiliate."

Chicago State University has agreed to pay out $650,000 and rewrite its computer usage and cyberbullying policies in a Tuesday settlement.

The school made the decision regarding a lawsuit filed by two CSU professors, according to the free speech nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which aided the professors in litigation. The settlement agreements ordered the university to revise its computer usage policy, which bans “any communication which tends to embarrass or humiliate" as well as provide training for those charged with enforcing the new policy. 

"...the clear cost, financially and with regards to reputation, that censorship has for universities"   

CSU professors Phillip Beverly and Robert Bionaz launched a faculty blog that was critical of then-CSU President Wayne Watson. Particularly, the professors criticized what they believed to be administrative corruption, as well as incompetence.

CSU ordered the shutdown of the site. Furthermore, the administration argued it might take legal action if the blog remained published, citing violations of intellectual property and policies of online civility. 

[RELATED: 33 schools ignore Congressional request to change restrictive speech codes]

This would lead to the filing of the lawsuit by the professors in July 2014, as Campus Reform  reported at the time.

Matthew Foldi, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the  College Republican National Committee, expressed satisfaction regarding the outcome of the suit when speaking with Campus Reform.

 "I’ve worked very closely with FIRE over several years and the ICRF (Illinois College Republican Federation) is firmly committed to supporting free speech of students on all campuses, in Illinois and across the country,” Foldi said. “That’s why we’ve partnered with Students for Free Expression, an organization I founded, for the past two years and our members across the state have tabled in support of free speech.” 

[RELATED: Guess which state beats every other in campus free speech]

“Last year College Republicans at [Southern Illinois University Edwardsville] led the charge in abolishing the ‘free speech zone’ on their campus,” the chairman continued to Campus Reform. “Finally, FIRE’s litigation successes demonstrate the clear cost, financially and with regards to reputation, that censorship has for universities."

Campus Reform reached out to Chicago State for comment and a representative said that CSU would call back. When a representative from the school called back a short time later and verified that the author was with Campus Reform, the representative proceeded to hang up.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @bryanbabb316

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Bryan Babb
Bryan Babb | Campus Correspondent

Bryan Babb is a Georgia Campus Correspondent, and reports on liberal bias and abuse on campus for Campus Reform. He is majoring in Political Science and minoring in English at the University of North Georgia.

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