Wednesday, May 09, 2018

University of Michigan Sued Over Anti-Bias Rules

A lawsuit was filed yesterday in Michigan federal district court against the University of Michigan challenging provisions in its disciplinary code prohibiting harassment, bullying and bias-related conduct, and enforcement of these provisions by the University's Bias Response Team. The lawsuit contends that the "amorphous prohibitions" in the conde "profoundly chill free speech and open discourse." The complaint (full text) in Speech First, Inc. v. Schlissel, (ED MI, filed 5/8/2018), alleges in part:
The University’s definitions of “bias” encompass countless instances of protected speech and expression on all manner of topics. Under the plain text of these definitions, a student may be deemed to have acted with “bias” if, for example, she gives a speech sharply criticizing the Catholic Church and its adherents for not allowing  women to become priests; this student has expressed a “negative opinion” or “attitude” about a certain group of people based on their “cultural experience” of religion....
The mere existence of the BRT mechanism chills protected expression even apart from any punishments that may result at the end of the process. The University has created and promoted a system in which students can file anonymous reports of “bias” under an amorphous definition based on anything that harms their “feelings,” which will then lead a team of University officials to spring into action to investigate. Students voicing controversial or unpopular opinions, or seeking to engage in humor, satire, or parody, may credibly fear that the BRT will be summoned in response to their speech and that they will be forced to defend themselves against accusations of “bias.”
The College Fix reports on the lawsuit.