Lawsuit: University of Texas-Austin Has Unconstitutional Free Speech Restriction Policies

Free Speech College
AFP PHOTO/Josh Edelson

The University of Texas at Austin is facing a lawsuit that alleges its speech policy that restricts students from using “rude” or “insensitive” language is unconstitutional.

According to a report from The College Fix, the University of Texas at Austin has implemented a speech restriction policy that prevents students from using “rude” or “insensitive” language.

The university now faces a lawsuit from a public interest group called Speech First. The lawsuit alleges that the university’s ban on offensive speech is a violation of the First Amendment rights for students.

First, the University has crafted a series of speech codes with numerous vague and overbroad prohibitions on student speech. The University’s ban on “verbal harassment” extends to “offensive” speech, including “insults, epithets, ridicule, [and] personal attacks” “based on the victim’s … personal characteristics, or group membership, … ideology, political views, or political affiliation.” The University’s Acceptable Use Policy for its information technology resources (such as email and internet access) prohibits communications that are “uncivil,” “rude,” or “harassing.” And the University’s Residence Hall Manual—which regulates the thousands of students who live in University housing—proscribes yet another version of “harassment,” which it defines as including “racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ageism, ableism, and any other force that seeks to suppress another – 3 – individual or group of individuals.” All of these prohibitions are backed by the threat of investigation and formal or informal discipline, yet they encompass protected expression and provide no clear or objective guidance to students about how to comply.

And the group’s concern over the policy is not baseless. The Young Conservatives of Texas group at the University of Texas has allegedly been reported to the university’s bias incident report team.

Hundreds of reports were made to the bias incident team over an “affirmative action bake sale,” which seeks to illustrate the impact of treating students disparately based on their race, gender, and orientation.

The University of Texas at Austin instituted a new guest lecturer approval process after conservative student invited Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.

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