Feminists Sue University for Failing to Protect Them from Mean Internet Comments

democrat Supporters watch the election results during Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's election night rally in the Jacob Javits Center glass enclosed lobby in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A feminist student group at the University of Mary Washington has filed a Title IX lawsuit against the institution for failing to protect them from mean comments on the internet.

Feminists United, a student group at the University of Mary Washington, has claimed in a recently filed lawsuit that the administration failed to protect them from posts made on the anonymous social media app, Yik Yak.

The suit alleges that the university failed to protect the students by refusing to ban access to the app via the university’s wifi system. The complaint ignores the reality that most students have access to the app via LTE internet service on their cellular devices, which would render a ban on the university’s wifi system almost worthless.

The students claim that the university’s decision to allow students to access the app via the school’s wifi network fostered a hostile environment in which the students were subjected to “overtly and/or sexist/threatening” anonymous messages.

Writing on the lawsuit for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Susan Kruth argued that the university did not violate Title IX policies by refusing to act on comments made on the anonymous app, Yik Yak, which was recently shut down in May.

Universities should respond to true threats and to serious allegations of sexual harassment, and they can provide non-punitive resources to people who encounter offensive speech. But to the extent that remarks are merely sexist or offensive, a public university must recognize that such language is protected under the First Amendment and decline to take unlawful steps to censor it. Throughout their complaint, the plaintiffs conflate alleged threats and a pattern of conduct that they claim deprived them of educational benefits with remarks or behavior that made them uncomfortable.

Writing to The College Fix, FIRE representative Daniel Burnett cited the 2003 Supreme Court case Virginia v. Black, which claimed that “true threats” are defined by a communication in which there is a reasonable intention to commit an act of unlawful violence.

Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about economics and higher education for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at tciccotta@breitbart.com

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