Univer­sity changes speech poli­cies af­ter Jus­tice mo­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY JEFF MORDOCK

The Univer­sity of Michigan changed its speech poli­cies Tues­day, one day af­ter the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion weighed in on a fed­eral law­suit al­leg­ing the school un­fairly tram­pled on stu­dents’ First Amend­ment rights.

On Mon­day, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice filed a state­ment of in­ter­est ac­cus­ing the Ann Ar­bor school of im­pos­ing a “sys­tem of ar­bi­trary cen­sor­ship of, and pun­ish­ment for, con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity pro­tected speech.”

The Jus­tice Depart­ment’s mo­tion was in sup­port of a May law­suit against the school by Speech First, a free speech ad­vo­cacy group. Speech First al­leged the Univer­sity Michigan’s Bias Re­sponse Team, which re­sponds to re­ports of any speech a lis­tener finds “both­er­some” or “hurt­ful.”

Since April 2017, the Bias Re­sponse Team has in­ves­ti­gated more than 150 in­ci­dents and re­moved fly­ers, posters and even erased white­boards, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

The school has since up­dated its speech poli­cies by adopt­ing more con­crete def­i­ni­tions of “bul­ly­ing” and “ha­rass­ing.” The Univer­sity of Michigan said it will now use more for­mal def­i­ni­tions found in Michigan state law.

“The re­vised def­i­ni­tions more pre­cisely and ac­cu­rately re­flect the com­mit­ment to free­dom of ex­pres­sion that has al­ways been ex­pressed in the state­ment it­self,” said E. Roys­ter Harper, Vice Pres­i­dent of Stu­dent Life, in a state­ment re­leased by the school.

Jus­tice Depart­ment spokesman Devin O’Mal­ley said in a state­ment that the agency will con­tinue to pur­sue free speech cases.

“Our na­tion’s pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges were es­tab­lished to pro­mote di­ver­sity of thought and ro­bust de­bate, so we must not ac­cept when they in­stead use their author­ity to sti­fle these prin­ci­ples on their cam­puses,” he said.

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