Second University Must Pay Big For Free Speech Denials

Sued For Free Speech Rights Violations by Students and Faculty
WASHINGTON - Dec. 9, 2022 - PRLog -- Two universities in the last few weeks have been forced to pay out large sums to faculty and students as a result of law suits charging that the schools violated their free speech rights.

In a just reported development, the University of Idaho was forced to pay $90,000 to settle a lawsuit from members of a Christian law students' organization who claimed their freedom of speech was violated when the school's civil rights investigation office issued no-contact orders against them, apparently for praying and expressing the position of their religion.  The orders were issued after an LGBTU student claimed she felt harassed when Christian students expressed negative opinions regarding her sexuality.

Another big victory for campus freedom of speech occurred when a jury imposed a whopping $500,000 verdict in punitive damages, in addition to a verdict of $145,000 for compensatory damages for harm actually suffered, against Auburn University in Lee County, Alabama, for retaliating against a tenured professor for voicing concerns about its dumbing down of certain courses.  He had spoken out about what appeared to a program of using an academic majors of limited value and easy courses which enabled its student athletes, especially football players, to remain eligible to play.

These two different cases, in which universities had to pay out large sums for deliberately violating the free speech rights of faculty and students, are important because the possibility of similar financial hits may encourage other students and faculty members to sue when their own free speech rights are similarly violated, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who recently helped obtain a major free speech victory at his own George Washington University.

Such big payouts should also encourage other attorneys to be willing to sue universities and their top officials, since such suits offer the real hope that attorneys taking on such cases can receive a substantial fee out of the winnings.

Lawyers who take on campus free speech cases can also use the threat of similar payouts as a powerful argument and strong negotiation tool, said Banzhaf.

As more universities yield to student demands - even if it means violating the Constitution - and suffer little criticism for their illegal actions, lawsuits may be the only way to reign in such violations, since legal activists are increasingly encouraging lawsuits when administrators and faculty do nothing to prevent the continuing violations.

Suing whenever campus free speech violations occur may be the best way - if not the only way - to slow or even reverse the decline in support for free speech rights in higher education, warns Banzhaf.   @profbanzhaf

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