At the end of March, University of Illinois (UIUC) TPUSA campus coordinator, Joel Valdez, decided to take legal action against the University of Illinois for restricting the Freedom of Press and several students’ freedom of speech on campus.
The University of Illinois was hit with another lawsuit by Speech First on Thursday, may 30. This conservative nonprofit claims that UIUC has “unconstitutional” free speech policies.
Speech First outlined several policies of the university’s that violate the First Amendment during a press conference and released them all in their lawsuit.
“On a regular basis, the University of Illinois sends a clear message to students who wish to engage in political and religious speech: there are some views that are welcome, and others that are not,” Speech First President Nicole Neily said in the press release. “Students deserve to be able to express themselves and voice their opinions without fear of investigation or punishment – which is why these policies must be reformed.”
Speech First founded their lawsuit after taking issue with UIUC’s leafleting policy, according to Campus Reform. The policy states that students cannot “post and distribute leaflets, handbills, and other types of materials” that are “promotional materials of candidates for noncampus elections” without approval from the school and its board.
In addition, Speech First cited UIUC’s 2017-2018 Bias Assessment Report Team report. This report explicitly says that UIUC received 265 bias reports of 128 different incidents in FY2018 alone.
The report explicates that “in categorizing incidents, the program relies on the perceptions of the reporting party, when available, and on the judgment of team members.”
“Whether this speech is protected by the First Amendment is of little or no concern to many colleges and universities,” Speech First‘s lawsuit explains.
Speech First is representing 4 UIUC students, as the basis of their federal lawsuit. These anonymous students are “suffering concrete injuries” from 4 campus policies that supposedly violate their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
As for defendants, the list includes University of Illinois President Tim Killeen, Chancellor Robert Jones, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Danita Brown, and Director of the Office for Student Conflict Resolution Justin Brown.
“The University of Illinois is deeply committed to the core values of free speech and free expression and to the open exchange of competing ideas and perspectives,” spokesperson Chris Harris explained to The College Fix in a written statement. He said the university has not received “official notice” of the lawsuit, but the school will “respond appropriately” when it reviews the litigation.
Here is the official, filed lawsuit:
Speech First lawsuit agains… by Scribd
What sparked the UIUC lawsuit?
Chief Illiniwek, a once popular UIUC mascot, was overthrown 12 years ago because of its Native American likeness. The ex-mascot was part of UIUC’s college experience for more than 80 years.
The campus has been implementing ways to “make sure Native people are at the core of everything we do at the university,” stated Chancellor Robert Jones, in response to the controversy.
But, many UIUC students want to bring back Chief Illiniwek. On the other hand, many students want to keep the chief buried.
The anti-Illiniwek students have the aid of the Bias Assessment Response team (BART).
The lawsuit states that the BART is being weaponized by anti-Illiniwek students to investigate and punish pro-Illiniwek students. What’s interesting, however, is that BART is being used to punish students with unpopular opinions in general, such as support for Israel, not just for supporting the ex-mascot.
While the two lawsuits against UIUC are fundamentally different, the message is simple: Free Speech is under attack on campus.
According to testimonials from Speech First‘s anonymous plaintiffs, they identify themselves as “classical liberal,” libertarian and conservative. They oppose abortion, believe in traditional marriage, and support Israel.
Shockingly enough, these views are generally outside of the mainstream at UIUC.
Turning Point USA is on the campus battlefield every day, fighting for the Freedom of Speech of every student! As Charlie Kirk, TPUSA founder and CEO, said, “We are in a battle for the soul of America.”
When students are oppositional to the almighty progressive viewpoint, the answer is not to silence them. The answer is to debate them and prove or disprove their beliefs. This is what TPUSA is striving for on campus and in America.
This suit is Speech First’s third overall lawsuit and the first since December, when it went after similar policies at the University of Texas.