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UCF hit with First Amendment violation lawsuit over its “bias response team”

The university was punishing students over their speech.
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The University of Central Florida (UCF) is being sued for allegedly unconstitutionally violating students’ right to free speech on politics and social issues.

The lawsuit will be considered by the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida and seeks a permanent injunction preventing the school from enforcing several controversial policies.

We’re providing a copy of the lawsuit for you here.

The public university, whose status means it must uphold First Amendment rights and other provisions of the US Constitution, stands accused of devising policies and rules of its own that aim to “restrain, deter, suppress, and punish speech about the political and social issues of the day.”

Speech First, that fights for students’ right to free expression on college campuses, made this claim in the filing, and detailed the three policies it says enable this form of discrimination.

These are harassment, computer usage and bias response team rules, the group said in a statement announcing the lawsuit, adding that these violate not only the First, but also the Fourteenth Amendment, the College Fix reported.

The Fourteenth Amendment is designed to ensure all citizens enjoy equal protection of the laws.

With the first policy on harassment, Speech First said, the school is broadly restrictive to the point of violating constitutional rights when it states that “discriminatory harassment may take many forms, including verbal acts, name-calling, graphic or written statements, or other conduct that may be humiliating or threatening.”

The second policy the lawsuit hopes to prevent UCF from exercising seeks to tightly regulate computer usage, and penalize any violations all the way to revoking computer and network privileges – citing as prohibited behavior that is harassing or invasive. Once again, the language is vague and lends itself to overreach, as the “proof” needed to show this behavior had taken place during computer usage is that it can be “reasonably perceived” as such.

And thirdly, the “Just Knights Response Team” the university has set up to deal with “bias related incidents” violates both amendments cited in the lawsuit, while the phrase “bias related incidents” itself is another example of a vaguely worded definition, Speech First said. The effect of this policy is erosion of free discourse, they added.

A spokesperson for UCF did not directly comment on the lawsuit, but maintained that the university upholds free speech.

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