A free speech nonprofit sued the University of Michigan Tuesday for what its president termed an “un-American” bias response team operated by the school.
Speech First sued the school over its policy banning “bullying” and “harassment,” ramping up penalties for students committing these acts with “bias,” according to a press release obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. The University of Michigan’s bias response team has investigated over 150 incidents of “bias” since April 2017, the nonprofit reported.
“Speech codes like Michigan’s flagrantly violate the First Amendment,” Speech First President Nicole Neily said. “Moreover, a bias response system has no place in America, much less on a modern-day college campus. Because it’s impossible to know what comments might be ‘perceived’ by others as offensive, students don’t contribute to conversations and debates, ask questions, write papers, or invite speakers they might otherwise. This is not a real educational experience, and Michigan students deserve better.”
Neily described the school’s bias response team as “un-American” and resembling something one might find in East Germany, when speaking with The Daily Caller News Foundation.
She recalled the school’s investigation of a “snow penis,” as well as its encouragement of students to report offensive Halloween costumes as instances of administrative encroachment on student right. The Speech First president also addressed the University of Michigan’s employment of 20 students in an Inclusive Language Campaign, offering students free room and board in exchange for their participation.
“What kind of perverse incentive have you set up?” Neily told TheDCNF, describing the system, which she believes motivates students to sniff out bias where there isn’t any to sustain their free room and board. “[The students are] a hammer and everything is a nail at that point.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a campus free speech watchdog group, assigned the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor a red-light rating, indicating the school has two policies that “clearly and substantially [restrict] freedom of speech.” (RELATED: Michigan Profs Demand Double Salary, Threaten To Strike)
The University of Michigan also made headlines for fiscal reasons in the past year. The school is building a $10 million multicultural center and unionized professors who threatened to strike if they did not receive pay raises. Ann Arbor campus professors asked for an increase in their starting salary from $34,500 to $60,000.
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