The infection of speech restrictions on campus has spread nationwide, but some are fighting back. The latest defense of the First Amendment is a lawsuit filed Thursday against Iowa State University.
The Ames, Iowa, school has “created a series of rules and regulations designed to restrain, deter, suppress, and punish speech concerning political and social issues of public concern,” says the suit filed in federal court on behalf of Iowa State students by the nonprofit Speech First.
The suit cites several examples of the school’s bias, such as a policy prohibiting students from “broadcasting email from a university account to solicit support for a candidate or ballot measure.” Another policy limits who can use chalk on pavement. The practice is popular with students on both sides of the abortion debate, and Iowa State recently intervened to say that only registered student organizations could use chalk on pavement and only to promote an event.
The university may be most legally vulnerable for its Campus Climate Reporting System, which is as Orwellian as it sounds. Under the “system,” students are encouraged to report “bias incidents” to a panel that includes the chief and vice chief of the Iowa State University Police Department, the dean of students, and the university counsel.