Free Speech Group Files Lawsuit Against Public University Over ‘Bias Response Team’

Indiana University is violating students’ First and 14th Amendment rights through its “far-reaching” bias reporting policy, a civil rights organization alleges.

Speech First filed a federal lawsuit against Indiana University on Wednesday arguing that the school is violating the rights of students by enacting a speech policy that “is designed solely to deter, discourage, and otherwise ‘prevent’ students from expressing disfavored views about the political and social issues of the day.” Under the policy, students can report others for “any conduct, speech, or expression, motivated in whole or in part by bias or prejudice meant to intimidate, demean, mock, degrade, marginalize, or threaten individuals or groups” on some aspect of their identity, like race or gender identity, according to Indiana University’s website.

After a report is filed, the bias response team may draft a “response plan,” refer students to on-campus resources or “engage” with the individual who was reported, according to the university’s website.

Indiana University’s website claims that its bias reporting system does not “impinge on free speech rights and academic freedom” and points out that the bias response team itself cannot impose disciplinary actions. The bias response team can, however, recommend that students accused of bias be hit with formal or informal sanctions, according to the lawsuit.

“Indiana taxpayers should be furious that their hard-earned dollars are funding a tyrannical administration that has taken a page out of the playbook of history’s most oppressive regimes,” Speech First executive director Cherise Trump said of the case. “IU’s Bias Response Team encourages students to report on their peers anonymously if they so much as question the prevailing dogma.”

Speech First argues that the university’s anti-bias policy is so broad that it could apply to “something as simple as asking why the Biden Administration has added ‘gender identity’ as a protected class under Title IX” or “stating that unchecked illegal immigration will lead to an increase in crime,” according to a press release.

“Speech First’s members who attend the University are suffering concrete injuries as a direct result of the University’s unconstitutional policies and actions,” the lawsuit claims. “These students want to engage in speech covered by the University’s bias incidents policy, but they credibly fear that the expression of their deeply held views will be considered ‘biased,’ ‘marginaliz[ing],’ ‘demean[ing],’ ‘intimidating,’ and the like,” it continues.


Similar bias reporting systems have faced legal scrutiny before. Montclair State University, a public institution in New Jersey, for instance, agreed to disband its “Bias Education Response Taskforce” after being sued by  Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit Christian legal advocacy group, Campus Reform reported. Montclair’s bias team sought to sanction expression determined to be “motivated by bias or prejudice.”

Speech First has also challenged bias response teams at the University of Texas, the University of Michigan and the University of Central Florida, with all three institutions eventually shuttering them, according to the lawsuit.

Indiana University did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.


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