U Illinois SUED over 'unconstitutional' policies
A conservative nonprofit sued the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Thursday over "unconstitutional" free speech policies.
Speech First singled out multiple policies implemented by the school in a press release and lawsuit obtained by Campus Reform.
“On a regular basis, the University of Illinois sends a clear message to students who wish to engage in political and religious speech: there are some views that are welcome, and others that are not," Speech First President Nicole Neily said in the press release. "Students deserve to be able to express themselves and voice their opinions without fear of investigation or punishment – which is why these policies must be reformed.”
Speech First took issue with UIUC's leafleting policy, which says that students cannot "post and distribute leaflets, handbills, and other types of materials” that are “promotional materials of candidates for noncampus elections" without approval in advance from the school. The nonprofit also cites UIUC's 2017-2018 Bias Assessment Response Team report, which asserts that the university received 265 bias reports of 128 separate bias incidents for FY 2018.
The report says that “in categorizing incidents, the program relies on the perceptions of the reporting party, when available, and on the judgment of team members.”
"Whether this speech is protected by the First Amendment is of little or no concern to many colleges and universities," Speech First's lawsuit states.
The nonprofit suggests that UIUC's housing policy banning "any acts of bias" and warning about "corrective action" should any occur infringes on students' free speech rights, claiming that such incidents reported to the school have included a student's display of a Confederate flag in his window and a student's hanging of a poster depicting UIUC's former mascot, Chief Illiniwek, on their door.
Speech First finally describes UIUC's "No Contact Directive," which the group says infringes upon students' freedom of speech and movement.
Campus Reform sat down with Neily to discuss the lawsuit.
“Through the creation and active enforcement of its Bias Assessment Response Team, University Housing Bias Protocol, the No Contact Directive, and the prior approval requirement for flyers related to non-campus elections, administrators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have become the arbiters of what kinds of speech are – and are not – welcome on campus,” Neily said in the press release. “As a public university, UIUC is bound to uphold the First Amendment, and these policies violate both the spirit and the letter of the law.”
The nonprofit asks the court to declare UIUC's ban on bias-motivated incidents, leafleting policy, and no contact directive unconstitutional and to shut down the school's University Housing Bias Protocol and Bias Assessment Response Team.
"The University of Illinois is deeply committed to the core values of free speech and free expression and to the open exchange of competing ideas and perspectives," UIUC spokesman Chris Harris told Campus Reform. "The University has not received official notice of this litigation, but we will review any filings and respond appropriately."
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