Court Allows Case Against U of M “Bias Response Teams”
On Monday of this week, the 6th Circuit ruled that a case against the University of Michigan can continue in its seeking of an injunction. A freedom of speech organization sued on the behalf of several anonymous students, who claim that the school’s “bias response teams” violate basic first amendment rights by using the teams as a form of censorship.
Bias response teams on U of M’s campus are supposed to seek and investigate instances of bullying and harassment and are based on the campus’s bullying and anti-harassment policies. Students can report incidents where they feel to have encountered bias in the University community to the bias response teams. The teams then get in contact with the individual who “perpetrated” the incident. The 6th Circuit notes that “The Response Team has no direct punitive authority—it cannot, for example, suspend a student or impose academic sanctions. It can, however, make referrals to police, OSCR, or other school resources such as counselling services.”
After the suit was filed by Speech First, the group pursuing the litigation, U of M revised the language of its anti-bullying policies, which the court says does not change the fact that the teams are still in place. There remains the possibility that the teams could be used to unfairly target certain students for expressing viewpoints which might not be popular with their fellow students.
Michigan’s publicly funded universities seem to be trying to send a message: the First Amendment is no longer welcome on campus. From Wayne State selectively withholding benefits from Christian groups, to free speech being investigated and ostracized at U of M, these schools follow in the steps of a national trend to restrict the First Amendment in the name of education.
You can read the entire decision here: https://www.courthousenews.com/…/uploa…/2019/09/UMSpeech.pdf