IU faces another First Amendment lawsuit

Speech First filed a lawsuit against Indiana University yesterday, claiming they violated students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The nonprofit claims that the university’s Bias Incident Policy is far-reaching enough to be unconstitutional and “designed to deter, discourage, and otherwise prevent students from expressing disfavored views about the political and social issues of the day.”

Earlier this month, the ACLU of Indiana also filed a lawsuit against IU, alleging they violated the free speech rights of student, faculty, and community protestors by temporarily banning them from campus property for violating university policy.

IU defines a bias incident as “any conduct, speech, or expression, motivated in whole or in part by bias,” and includes any form of expression “meant to intimidate, demean, mock, degrade, marginalize, or threaten individuals or groups based on that individual or group’s actual or perceived identities.” Those filing a report do not need to be directly impacted by the bias, and the university maintains records of the report regardless of whether action is taken or not.

Speech First called the policy “circular” and “so overbroad that anything students find offensive could be reported.”

Cherise Trump, Executive Director of Speech First

“This could include something as simple as asking why the Biden Administration has added ‘gender identity’ as a protected class under Title IX,” said a statement released by Speech First. “Students accused of ‘bias incidents’ can be referred for formal disciplinary proceedings and, as students have told us, reports on their records can be referenced at any time. One student reportedly was overlooked for promotion at their place of work on campus because of a Bias Incident Report on their record… [that] stated they had merely said something offensive.”

“IU’s Bias Response Team encourages students to report on their peers anonymously if they so much as question the prevailing dogma,” said Cherise Trump, Executive Director of Speech First. “The University is well aware their Bias Incident Policy will inevitably lead to student self-censorship and the elimination of dissenting ideas. This is not only an unconstitutional abuse of government power, but it goes against the core principles America was founded on. Students have a right to express their opinion without fear of retaliation. Students shouldn’t face disciplinary sanctions for simply expressing their views, asking questions, or challenging their peers’ assumptions. Speech First is suing IU to defend the rights of our student members and to eliminate these policies that chill, deter, and silence students’ speech.”

The complaint filed in Speech First, Inc. vs. Whitten et al. can be found below.

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