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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Speech First targets campus policies in lawsuit against Iowa State University


By Kimberly James | Jan 27, 2020

1600px iowa state university   beardshear hall
Iowa State University | Wikimedia Commons/Pud00

Speech First, a nonprofit free speech litigation group, has filed a lawsuit against Iowa State University, claiming that three school policies infringe upon students' First Amendment rights.

"This chalking policy was instituted to quell ‘offensive’ and political speech. And it allows only registered student organizations to advertise events to the exclusion of all other students, in violation of both the  First Amendment and Iowa’s campus free-speech law. Under the  University’s policy, students who 'chalk' an unauthorized message face discipline," the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, the school's acceptable use technology policy prohibits students from using school email to communicate about campaigns and ballot issues.

Lastly, Speech First is challenging the Campus Climate Reporting System (CCRS). The CCRS is a group of University administrators who respond to reported bias incidents and refer them to investigations. 

"The definition of 'bias incident'—the trigger for these consequences—encompasses wide swaths of protected expression. The CCRS  poses a grave risk of chilling the open and unfettered discourse that  should be central to higher education," Speech First said, according to Iowa State Daily

Speech First has asked the court to declare these three university policies unconstitutional and to issue an injunction prohibiting the university to enforce the chalking ban or the email correspondence limits.

Speech First is currently involved in litigation with the University of Texas and the University of Illinois. They recently settled a case with the University of Michigan.

"As a public institution, Iowa State University fully embraces its role as a First Amendment campus and is deeply committed to constitutional protections of free expression. The protections afforded by the First  Amendment and similar provisions in the Iowa Constitution are core values of the university and are foundational to the university’s mission to create, share, and apply knowledge to make Iowa and the world a better place. Constitutional free speech provisions are designed to  establish and protect the 'free marketplace of ideas' that is a  fundamental characteristic of university life," said President Wendy Wintersteen, according to the Iowa State Daily

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