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Monday, April 12, 2021

Virginia Tech sued for allegedly chilling college students’ speech with insurance policies

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Virginia Tech University is dealing with a recent lawsuit from the nonprofit Speech First, which alleges that the college has set overly broad restrictions on students’ expression.

Filed on Thursday, the lawsuit takes goal at Virginia Tech’s insurance policies on harassment and discrimination, bias-related incidents, and its laptop coverage, which prohibits the usage of the community for “partisan political functions.” It additionally targets the college’s ban on distributing literature or petitions with out prior approval.

“By way of this elaborate disciplinary equipment, directors at Virginia Tech have intimidated college students into silence, refraining altogether from expressing feedback or viewpoints that could be perceived as controversial or offensive,” Speech First president Nicole Neily mentioned in a press release offered to Fox Information.

“This effort to limit (and even punish) speech primarily based on content material goes towards the dedication to tutorial discourse that’s speculated to be paramount in greater training.”

Neily’s group is representing a number of college students who’re additionally members of Speech First. Thursday’s lawsuit represented rising stress at universities the place college students’ free speech claims got here up towards administrative makes an attempt to forestall harassment.

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Central to the controversy have been insurance policies addressing allegedly biased incidents.

Fox Information beforehand reported on Speech First’s lawsuit with the College of Illinois on this situation and different insurance policies just like these within the Virginia Tech case. A settlement earlier this 12 months clarified that the college’s bias response crew and “Bias Incident Protocol” had “no authority to impose any type of self-discipline on any scholar.”

It additionally pledged to not reinstate a beforehand repealed coverage for prior approval of “promotional supplies of candidates for non-campus elections.”

The lawsuit notes that bias-related incidents embody demeaning jokes and “phrases or actions that contradict the spirit of [its] Ideas of Group.”

It additionally specifies that one of many reported incidents included a scholar overhearing male college students privately disparaging girls who participated in a snowball battle. One other concerned a scholar telling a joke “that included Caitlyn Jenner’s dead-name” throughout a lecture.

On the dean of scholars’ web site, the college frames the bias incident reporting as a method to remove concern, coercion and harassment.


“Virginia Tech is dedicated to offering an surroundings of labor, research and leisure/recreation for college students, school and workers that’s free from all types of harassment, intimidation, concern, coercion and exploitation,” it reads.

“Harassment could also be directed at people due to age, shade, incapacity, gender (together with being pregnant), gender id, gender expression, genetic info, nationwide origin, political affiliation, race, faith, sexual orientation, veteran standing, or every other foundation protected by legislation. Any such conduct is reprehensible and subverts the mission of the college. It will probably threaten the careers, instructional expertise and well-being of all members of the group.”

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