This lawsuit is a part of FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.
Chicago State University (CSU) professors Phillip Beverly and Robert Bionaz are contributing bloggers for CSU Faculty Voice, a blog authored by CSU faculty members that is often highly critical of the CSU administration’s perceived corruption and incompetence. Among other things, CSU Faculty Voice was launched in part because of previous unsuccessful efforts by the university to censor the student newspaper for publishing articles critical of the administration and illegal efforts by CSU to improperly withhold public records under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Just as in these previous cases, Chicago State administrators repeatedly have endeavored to shut down the Faculty Voice.
In November 2013, CSU sent a demand letter to Professor Beverly, threatening legal action if the blog wasn’t shut down. After Beverly refused, CSU retained outside counsel to pursue unfounded claims of trademark infringement against the authors. FIRE refuted these claims in a letter to CSU administrators, but the university’s attempts to silence the Faculty Voice continued. CSU then quickly authored and adopted a broad “cyberbullying policy” and is now attempting to use it to silence the Faculty Voice.