Judge: UMich Bias Response Team Doesn’t Threaten Free Speech

Rob Shimshock | Education Reporter

A federal judge disagreed with a free speech nonprofit Tuesday that argues the University of Michigan’s bias response team threatens free speech on campus.

U.S. District Court Judge Linda V. Parker does not seem likely to grant Speech First a preliminary injunction against the school’s bias response team, according to MLive.com.

“The university considers this voluntary and the student has no obligation to come in,” Parker said, addressing the policy by which the University of Michigan’s bias response team operates. “You say there is an implicit threat. I don’t see that.”

Speech First sued the University of Michigan in May, calling the school’s bias response team “un-American” when speaking with The Daily Caller News Foundation back then. The nonprofit’s president, Nicole Neily, then criticized UMich for investigating a “snow penis” and encouraging students to report offensive Halloween costumes. She also blasted the school for employing students in an Inclusive Language Campaign.

“What kind of perverse incentive have you set up?” she asked, speaking with TheDCNF in May about the program, which grants students free room and board in exchange for policing their peers. “[The students are] a hammer and everything is a nail at that point.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed a statement of interest on behalf of Speech First in June. The Justice Department alleged that UMich’s statement of student rights and responsibilities was “unconstitutional” because it relied on subjective interpretations of notions like “bias” and “bullying.” (RELATED: DOJ Lays Down The Law On ‘Unconstitutional’ UMich Speech Policies)

“A student who voices a controversial or unpopular opinion – or who seeks to use humor, parody, or satire when discussing sensitive topics – could face severe punishment,” Speech First’s lawsuit states.

But UMich asserts that its bias response team does not operate punitively, but only with the intent to educate and to support students.

The school also made headlines during the 2017-2018 school year when faculty threatened to strike if they did not receive a pay raise that would almost double the starting salary for lecturers.

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