August 19, 2019
AMICUS BRIEF FILED IN SUPPORT OF SPEECH FIRST IN THE U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE 5TH CIRCUIT
UT-Austin's Politics Have a Chilling Effect on the Free Exchange of Ideas
WASHINGTON, DC — Independent Women’s Forum has joined American Council of Trustees and Alumni in filing a brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in support of Speech First.
Speech First is suing the University of Texas-Austin on behalf of its members, conservative and libertarian UT students, on the grounds that the university’s speech policies suppress expression of conservative and libertarian viewpoints.
The lawsuit, Speech First v. Fenves, challenges four separate policies that together create an elaborate investigatory and disciplinary apparatus to suppress, punish, and deter speech that students may deem “offensive,” “biased,” “uncivil,” or “rude.” The university’s Residence Hall Manual, for example, prohibits “uncivil language and behaviors that interfere with the. . . individuality” of other students. The policy warns residents that those accused of “suppress[ing] another individual” may be subject to a “floor or hall meeting to discuss the incident” in which the “community” will decide “appropriate steps that need to be taken to address the incident.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a leading authority on campus civil liberties, has assigned UT-Austin a “red” rating, indicating its policies “clearly and substantially” restrict students’ freedom of speech.
IWF and ACTA believe that the university’s policies are unnecessarily vague and specifically designed to deter speech based on the viewpoint a student means to express. In their brief, IWF and ACTA argue that UT-Austin’s policies have a chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas.
Jennifer Braceras, the Director of IWF’s Center for Law & Liberty, issued the following statement: “College campuses should expand access to the marketplace of ideas, not stifle free speech.”
“A desire to encourage civility, however laudable, can never justify the enactment of overbroad policies and Orwellian punitive systems that can be used to deter the expression of unpopular political opinions."