Although we can all agree that freedom of speech is one of the most valuable of our rights as American citizens, it also goes without saying that no one should abuse that power in order to spew out racism, bigotry or any other form of verbal hate.
A group of conservative college students at the University Of Houston failed to see it that way unfortunately, going to the far-reaching lengths of actually suing the institution due to the belief that an anti-discrimination policy in place at UH violates their “freedom” to hash out their right-wing ideologies on race, marriage, gender identity and even the Black Lives Matter movement.
As listed on the school’s website, the Anti-Discrimination Policy is in place to simply protect faculty, students and anyone on campus from discrimination of all types, listing examples that include but aren’t limited to “epithets or slurs, negative stereotyping, threatening, intimidating or hostile acts, denigrating jokes and display or circulation (including through e-mail) of written or graphic material in the learning, living, or working environment.” Sounds good, right? Not according to the conservative members of Speech First, who sent out a press release on Wednesday to condemn the University Of Houston for a policy they believe “restricts protected speech under the guise of prohibiting ‘harassment.'”
Take a look below at a portion of the Speech First statement to try and make sense of their baseless lawsuit:
“Through the use of their harassment policy, the University of Houston reserves the right to punish students for ‘harassment’ that could occur anywhere, anytime, on campus, off campus, or on social media. Supreme Court precedent dictates that institutions of higher learning are only permitted to restrict speech when speech becomes so ‘severe and pervasive’ that it crosses the line into harassing conduct. However, the university’s definition of ‘harassment’ is so broad that it includes ‘negative stereotyping,’ ‘denigrating jokes,’ and other forms of speech that are protected under the Constitution. In response, Speech First is taking legal action to seek to restore the First Amendment rights of the students of the University of Houston.”
According to Speech First Executive Director Cherise Trump — fitting name! — she went on to add, “Universities should not be ideological instruments for propagating expression carefully curated to match whatever ideas and beliefs happen to be popular at the moment. Rather, they must once again establish themselves as open forums where students can engage in debate and dialogue without fear of retribution. That’s the environment that forges courageous leaders. The University of Houston has a harassment policy that is so overbroad, students could be reported or disciplined for simply expressing their opinions. The University of Houston is silencing its students’ speech at every turn, and inquisitive minds seeking an education deserve much better.”
The lawsuit itself lists testimonies from three unidentified students labeled as Student A, Student B and Student C. Hiding in anonymity, Student A thinks the idea of affirmative action is racist in itself and should also be able to freely share the belief that marriage can only be between man and woman. Student B has a problem with pronouns, hoping to no longer “play along with the fiction that people can ‘decide’ whether they are a male, a female, or neither.” Student C took up a problem with the Black Lives Matter movement, calling it an activist group that harms race relations.
Thankfully UH stands by its policy, reacting to the lawsuit by telling Houston Chronicle, “This lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the University of Houston System’s Anti-Discrimination policy based on the First Amendment,” further adding, “We believe Speech First has misconstrued or misread this policy as our policy clearly indicates that actionable harassment must be ‘unlawfully severe, pervasive, or persistent treatment,’ the standard cited by Plaintiffs and adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Using the law to uphold resistance to inclusivity is wrong on so many levels, but we’re hopeful this lawsuit won’t cause any adverse affect on a policy that clearly works towards the greater good.
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