UPDATED 6:05 PM PT – Wednesday, February 3, 2021
More than a year after being sued, a university backtracked on unconstitutional campus speech policies.
On Tuesday, the University of Illinois settled the case filed by activist group Speech First. The University repealed its policy that required flyers to be pre-approved as well as offered new guarantees for students’ free speech.
“The University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign will be forced to amend a handful of policies that were allegedly used as mechanisms to silence on-campus speech, ending a nearly two year legal battle” with Speech First.
— Speech First (@Speech_First) February 3, 2021
Speech First filed the lawsuit in 2019. The group asserted the institution’s “bias incident” policies and “no contact directives” could be used to silence protected speech.
Nicole Neily, the founder and president of the pro-free speech organization, commented that the settlement confirmed the university’s administration may not silence students “by accusing them of bias.” Neily has also spoken out against this in the past.
“There are so many different ways on college campuses today that schools try to discourage students from expressing viewpoints that they don’t like,” Neily said. “It’s almost — I think of it as death by a thousand cuts. There are free speech zones, there are speech codes, there are bias response teams and so universities are in a position where they can pick winners and losers.”
Neily added most “losers” in the free speech battle end up being conservatives. Polls also showed “astonishing” levels of self-censoring by students for fear of disciplinary action or bad grades.