Ohio University Pays $32,000 To Settle Free Speech Lawsuit Over T-Shirt Slogan

February 2, 2015

By Karen Farkas at Cleveland.com

ATHENS, Ohio – Ohio University has agreed to pay a student $6,000 and to also pay $26,000 for his legal fees to settle his claim that the school violated his free speech rights in a dispute over a slogan on a t-shirt.

In its settlement, Ohio University also agreed to adopt a new student code of conduct that protects free speech.

Student Isaac Smith sued OU in July 2014 after administrators ordered him and other members of Students Defending Students to stop wearing t-shirts with the three-decade-old slogan “We get you off for free.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit educational foundation that coordinated the lawsuit, said the settlement represents its fourth free-speech victory. The settlements have totaled $242,000.

As part of a Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, the foundation has been involved with seven lawsuits.

“More cases are in the works,” Catherine Sevcenko, the foundation’s associate director of litigation told Inside Higher Ed. “We will continue to work with colleges and universities that reach out to us, as we have for the last 15 years. But colleges and universities need to understand that when we filed four lawsuits in one day last July, it was not a publicity stunt.”

Schools: Ohio University Cases: Ohio University – Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit