Virginia Tech has received lawsuits from the nonprofit Speech First claiming that the university has put overly broad restrictions on student speech and expression.
Speech First is a nonprofit organization that combats restrictions on freedom of speech and other civil rights on college campuses. They aim to fight against arbitrary censorship that violates the First Amendment. Speech First claims that students fear the repercussions for anything they say or do and lose out on a college experience.
Filed on Thursday, the lawsuit Speech First Inc. v. Timothy Sands is aimed at Virginia Tech’s policies on harassment, discrimination and computer use. Speech First claims these policies prohibit the use of free speech and students fear disciplinary repercussions. The lawsuit also targets the university’s ban on distributing literature or petitions without prior approval.
“Administrators at Virginia Tech have intimidated students into silence, refraining altogether from expressing comments or viewpoints that might be perceived as controversial or offensive,” said Speech First President Nicole Neily to Fox News. “This effort to restrict (and even punish) speech based on content goes against the commitment to academic discourse that is supposed to be paramount in higher education.”
Speech First believes this lawsuit represents the concerns of students at Virginia Tech and across the country who have felt harassment from university administrators.
Speech First previously filed a lawsuit against the University of Illinois where Speech First felt as though their First Amendment rights were violated. This event clarified that the “Bias Incident Protocol” (BIP) has no authority to impose any disciplinary actions on any student.
Lawsuit notes include bias-related incidents such as inappropriate jokes and words and actions that contradict Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community.
One reported incident includes a student overhearing male students disparaging women who participated in a snowball fight. Another involved a student telling a joke about Caitlyn Jenner’s deadname during a lecture.
On the dean of students’ website, the university frames the bias incidents as expressions against a person or group because of a person’s or group’s age, color, disability, gender (including pregnancy), gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, or other basis protected by law.
Virginia Tech’s website states “we adopt and practice the following principles as fundamental to our on-going efforts to increase access and inclusion and to create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all of its members.”
All documentation of the defendants and plaintiffs has been filed and signed by a licensed attorney and will be presented to the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia Roanoke Virginia. Date of the court case is yet to be determined.