The University of Michigan (UM), which had initially defiantly insisted that a lawsuit accusing its speech code of being unconstitutionally broad was based on “mistaken premises,” suddenly has done an about-face the same day the U.S. Department of Justice offered a statement of interest backing the suit.
As Grace Gottschling of Campus Reform reports, Speech First filed a lawsuit against UM, stating, “The University of Michigan has a disciplinary code that prohibits ‘harassment’ and ‘bullying,’ and increases the penalties if such actions are motivated by ‘bias.’ As used, these concepts capture staggering amounts of protected speech and expression given that Michigan defines harassment as ‘unwanted negative attention perceived as intimidating, demeaning, or bothersome to an individual.’”
UM responded with a court filing asserting the lawsuit “mischaracterized its policies and programs.”
The day the DOJ offered its statement, UM spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald initially told Michigan Radio that the government’s attorneys had misinterpreted UM’s policies, saying, “Contrary to the department’s statement, the university’s Bias Response Team does not 'have the authority to subject students to discipline and sanction. It provides support to students on a voluntary basis; it does not investigate claims of bias or discipline students in any way.”
But later Fitzgerald posted an announcement on the school’s news website admitting that UM “revised the statutory language to narrow the potential scope of what is prohibited, and to add additional safeguards for free speech.”