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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Campus

Judge rules against UH anti-discrimination policy


Jose Gonzalez Campelo/The Cougar

Since the advent of social media sites like Twitter, Reddit and Facebook, the issue of free speech has had its boundaries tested and continues to be a hot-button issue across the nation. While it is of course a fundamental right outlined by the Constitution, many universities and organizations have taken steps to outline what exactly is free speech and what is harassment.

UH’s anti-discrimination policy is a violation of this fundamental right, according to a ruling given by a federal judge last Friday.

The ruling, issued by United States District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, places an immediate preliminary injunction on the policy.

“The University cannot choose to abide by the First Amendment in the Constitution,” the injunction stated. “It is not guidance — it is the law.”

The case was brought against the University by three anonymous conservative students working in conjunction with Speech First, an organization dedicated to protecting students’ first amendment rights on and off campus.

The lawsuit, which was filed back in February, stated that its goal was to protect politically conservative students who wished to espouse their views on topics such as transgender athletes, abortion and illegal immigration.

In a press release issued by Speech First’s executive director Cherise Trump, the organization accused the University of forcing students to adopt a particular political perspective on certain hot-button issues.

“Universities should not be ideological instruments for propagating expression carefully curated to match whatever ideas and beliefs happen to be popular at the moment,” Trump said. “Rather, they must once again establish themselves as open forums where students can engage in debate and dialogue without fear of retribution.”

In response, the University issued a statement claiming Speech First had misunderstood the policy.

“We believe Speech First has misconstrued or misread this policy as our policy clearly indicates that actionable harassment must be ‘unlawful severe, pervasive, or persistent treatment,’” a UH statement said.

Earlier this month, however, the University amended its policy to more clearly define harassment, just a little over a week before the judge ruled on the issue. This appears to have been too little, too late for the courts, as the injunction stated that “voluntary cessation does not guarantee the University will not amend its policies.”

The preliminary injunction will remain in place until a court rules definitively on the case. Until then, the University’s original anti-discrimination policy will remain unenforceable.

“The University says that it will be injured if recourse is unavailable for harassment against students or faculty,” read the injunction. “As important as that is, students also need defense against arbitrary professors.”

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