DOJ Defends Speech

PUBLISHED: 10:04 PM 13 Jun 2018

DOJ Files Statement Of Interest In Free Speech Lawsuit Against Michigan University

They claim that the university’s current policies have the effect of limiting the free speech of students.

Just recently, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that they support a lawsuit against University of Michigan's vague anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies (pictured above). 

Last month, Speech First, which is a legal group focused on fighting for free speech on college campuses, filed a lawsuit against the University of Michigan (UM) on the behalf of three anonymous students who purportedly hold conservative beliefs. In their complaint, the legal group accused the university of violating the First Amendment, which is a constitutional right that protects the right to speak freely, by having extremely vague anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies that basically chill the free speech of students.

Incredibly, upon learning about the allegations against UM, the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to provide some unexpected help by announcing in a “Statement of Interest” that they wholly support the legal group’s recently filed lawsuit.

“The University of Michigan’s Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which prohibits ‘harassment,’ ‘bullying,’ and ‘bias,’ is unconstitutional because it offers no clear, objective definitions of the violations,” explained the DOJ in a statement about their decision to get involved in the lawsuit that was published online earlier this week.

“Instead, the Statement refers students to a wide array of ‘examples of various interpretations that exist for the terms,’ many of which depend on a listener’s subjective reaction to speech,” they continued.

“The University’s Bias Response Policy chills protected speech through its Bias Response Team. The Bias Response Team, which consists of University administrators and law enforcement officers, has the authority to subject students to discipline and sanction,” added the DOJ toward the end of their statement, noting ”it encourages students to report any suspected instances of bias, advising them: ‘[t]he most important indication of bias is your own feelings.’”

In an attempt to further justify the DOJ’s involvement in the matter, Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio stated, “freedom of speech and expression on the American campus are under attack. This Justice Department, under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is committed to promoting and defending Americans’ first freedom at public universities.”

While speaking with reporters, Panuccio added, “there’s now this idea on college campuses that if you hear speech that is offensive to you, you can’t deal with it in any way other than by shutting it down. That’s not a very good lesson to be teaching. And it’s not the lesson of our First Amendment.”

In response to the DOJ announcing their support for the lawsuit, UM released a statement accusing the Justice Department of having “seriously misstated University of Michigan policy and painted a false portrait of speech on our campus.”

To clarify, UM Spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told reporters that the university’s Bias Response Team “does not investigate claims of bias or discipline students in any way,” nor do they “subject students to discipline and sanction.” Instead, they simply provide “support to students on a voluntary basis.”

Despite Fitzgerald’s claim that their policy has been seriously misstated, the university ended up releasing standardized definitions of “bullying” and “harassing” to clarify what both words mean and prevent future confusion.

“The revised definitions more precisely and accurately reflect the commitment to freedom of expression that has always been expressed in the statement itself,” explained E. Royster Harper, the vice president of Student Life, in a recent message to student leaders and colleagues.

This is not the first time that the DOJ has announced their support for a lawsuit against a university. Earlier this year, they also submitted a Statement of Interest in support of a discrimination lawsuit against the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) that was filed on behalf of the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) and the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR), two conservative student groups.

Much like the officials at UM, the administrators at UCB insist that they have not done anything wrong. “The campus is committed to ensuring that student groups may hold events with speakers of their choosing, and it has expended significant resources to allow events to go forward without compromising the safety or security of the campus,” argued Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof, while talking to reporters about the lawsuit.

“The campus will continue to vigorously defend itself against these allegations,” continued Mogulof. “This suit has already been dismissed by the court once,” he added, referring to a judicial decision that was made several months ago to dismiss a lawsuit against UCB for “deliberately limit[ing] conservative free speech.”

The students, however, did not let the judge’s decision stop them from holding the university accountable for their prohibitive actions. Instead, they promptly filed an amended complaint rightly alleging that UCB had completely breached its promise to provide all students who attend with an “environment that promotes free debate and the free exchange of ideas” through the “repressive actions of University administrators and campus police.”

Disturbingly, university campuses like UM and UCB aren’t the only places where conservatives are being treated unfairly,. The same thing is also happening in grade schools, and on social media websites like Twitter.

For example, several months ago, Steven Crowder, a conservative commentator and comedian, was suspended by Twitter after he attempted to post a video of one of his interns infiltrating an LGBT meetup while pretending to identify as a computer.

“New MEGA-VIDEO up! HIDDEN CAM: Intern Crashes LGBTQ #SxSW Meetup!” stated Crowder in the tweet, which contained a YouTube link to the video, that he published at the time.

Shortly after posting the tweet, Crowder received a message from Twitter informing him that his account was suspended for 12 hours because he violated their rules against “hateful conduct.”

When the first suspension expired, Crowder published an edited version of the video that he thought was compliant with their terms of service. Unfortunately, though, he was notified a short time later that he had once again violated their policy and consequently suspended for a week.

Prior to that, Raheem Kassam, the former editor-in-chief of Breitbart News London, was also temporarily suspended by the social media platform’s Gestapo for responding to some of the vile messages he was being sent.

Out of all of the responses that Kassam had written, the one that supposedly got him suspended from Twitter said, “instruct away…I’ll happily show the court and the world that you don’t know how to mute or block a conversation that you jumped into willingly yourself. Then I will take your money for vexatious claims. Then my lawyers will make you pay their fees.”

His tweet, which was directed at Twitter user Sarah Wait, was reportedly published after she had threatened to “instruct” her lawyer to file a lawsuit against him for replying to tweets that she had tagged him in.

The authoritarian left must not be allowed to continue censoring the beliefs of conservatives or anyone else they disagree with. Hopefully, with the help of the DOJ, the legal group fighting on behalf of the students at UM will ultimately win their case against the university.