New Testimony Sheds Light on School’s Abuse of Free Speech

March 30, 2015

By Bob Kellogg at OneNewsNow

To keep the pressure on colleges and universities nationwide to revise their unconstitutional speech policies, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has filed several lawsuits as part of a litigation project begun last July.

In the latest development in one of those lawsuits, LaShondra Peebles, an administrator at Chicago State University, filed a statement on March 20 that college president Wayne Watson had pressured her into making a false sexual harassment complaint against professor Philip Beverly. Beverly had been outspoken in his criticism of the president and his college administration, and Peebles stated that Watson had been intent on shutting down Beverly’s comments. A First Amendment lawsuit was later filed against Watson with the support of FIRE.

The violation of free-speech rights at Chicago State University is not an isolated case. FIRE’s survey of 437 schools found that more than 55 percent maintain “severely” restrictive speech codes. To combat that, Azhar Majeed says they launched their Stand Up for Speech Litigation Project in July of last year.

“On the same day, we announced the filing of four First Amendment lawsuits brought by students and faculty members at public universities across the country,” he tells OneNewsNow.

The foundation’s strategy is to file lawsuits in federal courts against schools that violate the First Amendment rights of students and faculty.

“I would say that schools are taking notice of these [already existing] lawsuits and certainly don’t want to find themselves in the same predicament,” he says. “And so as a result of that mass mailing that I mentioned from last September, we’ve had over two dozen colleges and universities across the country reaching out to us and requesting to work with us.”

Although the number of unconstitutional speech codes has dropped significantly in the past seven years, Majeed says there are still far too many universities with unacceptable policies.

Schools: Chicago State University Cases: FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project Chicago State University – Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit