Letting leftist bureaucrats write the rules may finally be coming back to haunt The University of Texas.
A recently formed free speech advocacy organization, Speech First, has sued UT Austin on behalf of three anonymous students for multiple violations of students’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to free expression.
The suit targets UT’s Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities, a document that lays out the campus code of conduct and the ways students are allowed to conduct themselves on campus.
Speech First is targeting four areas of UT policy. A ban on “verbal harassment,” the Acceptable Use Policy, the Residence Hall Manual, and the Campus Climate Response Team. Each of these infringes on students’ free expression in different ways.
- The verbal harassment ban is overbroad and can be weaponized against conservative students.
- The Acceptable Use Policy similarly prevents “uncivil,” “rude,” or “harassing” behavior, all overbroad terms that can be selectively applied to dissident students.
- The Residence Hall Manual prohibits “racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ageism, ableism, and any other force that seeks to suppress another individual or group of individuals.” This collection of leftist buzzwords is often used to outlaw conservative and traditionalist perspectives.
- Lastly, the Campus Climate Response Team acts as a chilling force on students who fear that any report to this arm of the leftist bureaucracy can be used to punish conservative students for expressing their sincerely held beliefs.
The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of three anonymous students.
Student A “considers herself a Tea Party conservative. She strongly supports Israel, believes in a race-blind society, supports President Trump, is pro-life, and supports the border wall.”
Student B “considers himself a libertarian. He strongly supports the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, believes in a race-blind society, and has serious concerns that the ‘Me Too’ movement will erode due process.”
Student C “holds views that are unpopular and in the minority on campus. He believes that the breakdown of the nuclear family has had many negative effects on society, he is strongly pro-life, he strongly supports the Second Amendment, and he believes that Justice Kavanaugh was treated unfairly during his confirmation proceedings.”
Nicole Neily, the president of the organization filing this suit, said this about UT’s policies:
By failing to define highly subjective terms such as ‘offensive,’ ‘biased,’ ‘uncivil,’ and ‘rude,’ the University of Texas has given itself broad discretion to determine which speech — and whose speech — violates their policies. Unfortunately, this fails to pass Constitutional muster.
The legal challenge follows on the heels of strident student activism by Young Conservatives of Texas at UT Austin who have advocated for Justice Kavanaugh’s innocence and against in-state tuition for illegal aliens on campus this semester.