A judge in Austin, Texas ruled against a pro-Free Speech group on the University of Texas Austin. UT Austin’s Campus Climate Response Team was against the campus group Speech First.
The University of Texas Austin has anti-Free-Speech institutional policies in place, causing District Judge Lee Yeakel to rule on the side ofUT Austin and against Speech First.
The suit was filed by Speech First, and it is centered around three students who support beliefs such as the following: traditional values, Israel, the Second Amendment.
The First Amendment Rights of these students were “chilled” according to them. “Chilling” is a term used to describe the action of discourage the legitimate exercise of one’s free speech rights.
UT Austin has institutional rules that define verbal harassment as, “Insults, epithets, ridicule, personal attacks, or the categories of harassing sexual speech set forth in Policies 3-3031 and 9-1810 of the Handbook of Operating Procedures. Verbal harassment is often based on the victim’s appearance, personal characteristics, or group membership, including but not limited to race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, citizenship, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, ideology, political views, or political affiliation.”
The wording of many rules and regulations put into place by the university are ambiguously worded, and leave much open to interpretation. For example, UT dorms have broad terms in their code, such as rules against “uncivil language.”
The suit by Speech First also specifically targets the “Campus Climate Response Team,” a group of students and administrative personnel at UT Austin who investigate and recommend actions against students who are accused of “bias.”
After the case was first filed, Judge Yeakel suggested that the two parties settle their differences outside the court room, but UT Austin officials had no interest in working with Speech First to accomplish that.
The Judge issued his opinion on the case on June 5, saying that the Speech First students lacked legal standing for the lawsuit. “Speech First presents no evidence that any University students, much less any of Speech First’s student members, have been disciplined, sanctioned, or investigated for their speech,” Judge Yeakel said.
The president of Speech First, Nicole Neily, offered her opinion on the case after the ruling, saying, “Speech First continues to believe that the University’s policies chill protected expression in violation of the First Amendment. We look forward to the next phase of the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.”
The Fifth Circuit Court is considered to be one of the most conservative courts in the country, with more judges being appointed by President Trump than any other court.
The battle for students’ Free Speech fights is one that rages every single day on American college campuses. With support from groups like Speech First and Turning Point USA, students can start winning their battles!