Immediate Release
November 6, 2019


Nos. 19-2807 
United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit

University of Illinois’s Bias Response Teams Have A Chilling Effect On Free Speech on Campus

WASHINGTON, DC — Independent Women’s Law Center and American Council of Trustees and Alumni have filed an amicus brief in support of Speech First and students at the University of Illinois, arguing that the university’s speech policies violate the First Amendment. 

Speech First is suing the University of Illinois on behalf of its members, conservative and libertarian UI students, on the grounds that the university’s speech policies suppress expression of conservative and libertarian viewpoints. 

The lawsuit, Speech First v. Killeen, challenges four policies of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: a leafleting policy for non-campus elections, the Bias Assessment Response Team, University Housing’s Bias Response Protocol, and the No Contact Directive.  Speech First argues that these policies create an elaborate investigative and enforcement regime designed to restrain, deter, suppress, and punish speech concerning political and social issues of public concern.

The brief filed by Independent Women’s Law Center and ACTA focuses on the second policy, the University’s Bias Assessment Response Team (BART) and discusses the proliferation of bias response teams on college campuses across the U.S. and the chilling effect that these teams have on the free exchange of ideas. 

BART encourages members of the community to report incidents that they believe are motivated, at least in part, by prejudice against race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity/expression, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, age, disability/ability status, socioeconomic class, etc. 

Jennifer C. Braceras, the director of Independent Women’s Law Center, issued the following statement: “By encouraging students to report their peers and professors for so-called offensive speech, the University of Illinois has set up a surveillance state reminiscent of the East German Stasi.”

“A desire to encourage civility, however laudable, can never justify the enactment of overbroad and punitive systems that can be used to deter the expression of unpopular political opinions.”

Because members of Speech First at the University of Illinois have a reasonable fear of being reported if they engage in controversial speech on campus, Independent Women’s Law Center and ACTA urge the court of appeals to reverse the District Court’s finding that student members of Speech First lack standing to enforce their First Amendment rights.

Read the full brief HERE.


Independent Women’s Forum is dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities.
Independent Women’s Law Center advocates for equal opportunity, individual liberty, and respect for the American constitutional order.