Conservative Texas students suing university over hate speech rules

Blurred focus group of students sitting in class (iStock / Getty Images)

Blurred focus group of students sitting in class (iStock / Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Three students of the University of Houston are suing the school, saying the school’s anti-harassment policies are limiting their free speech. The students, who consider themselves conservatives, say what UH considers hate speech is just their opinion.

Houston Chronicle reports one of the students believes the Black Lives Matter movement is making racial tensions worse. The other two students say they don’t feel free to express their beliefs against transgender women competing in women’s sports and that women make less money than men because of the free market, respectively.

The students, who are part of the advocacy group Speech First, say they want to talk to classmates about these issues but don’t want to be punished for it.

“These students want to engage in speech that is arguably covered by the University’s policy, but they credibly fear that the expression of their deeply held views will be considered ‘intimidating,’ ‘denigrating,’ ‘negative stereotyp[es] and the like,” the lawsuit reads.

The University of Houston said it stands by its policy, which prohibits discriminatory speech toward protected classes, such as race and sexual orientation.

“This lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the University of Houston System’s Anti-Discrimination policy based on the First Amendment,” UH said in its statement. “We believe Speech First has misconstrued or misread this policy as our policy clearly indicates that actionable harassment must be ‘unlawfully severe, pervasive, or persistent treatment,’ the standard cited by Plaintiffs and adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The students are only referred to as “Student A, B, C” in the lawsuit, but Student A – who opposes abortion, LGBTQ marriage and using a person’s preferred pronouns – says he “wants to engage in open and robust intellectual debate with his fellow students… to point out the flaws in their arguments and convince them to changes their minds.”

The lawsuit names several UH leaders, including Renu Khator, the president and system chancellor. UH says constitutionally guaranteed First Amendment rights are important to any university and are considered especially important at UH.

Speech First previously sued the University of Texas Austin for similar reasons. As a result of Speech First v. Fenves, UT agreed to dismantle its Campus Climate Response Team. UT’s The Daily Texan explains the former CRRT allowed students to report bias and harassment on campus.

UT’s decision was praised by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who called it a victory against “absurd PC police.”


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