ORLANDO, Fla. — A national membership organization that describes itself as a group dedicated to preserving civil rights, including freedom of speech, is suing the University of Central Florida.
What You Need To Know
- Speech First claims UCF’s computer policy violates First Amendment
- Some Speech First members have conservative viewpoints
- Read the full 44-page lawsuit here
- RELATED: UCF Considering Firing Teacher Behind Controversial Tweets
In a lawsuit filed in Orlando's federal district court this week, the Speech First organization claims the university is suppressing free speech about social and political issues.
The 44-page lawsuit stated members of Speech First attend the university.
The lawsuit claims the university's discriminatory harassment policy disciplines students who engage in verbal or written statements that other students find humiliating or offensive, which it said violates the First Amendment.
The suit claims the university's computer policy against harassment is vague and violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The organization is also calling out the "Just Knights Response Team" which addresses bias incidents on campus.
“In April 2019, a member of the JKRT acknowledged that students come ‘to [his] office rehearsed in their “concerns” for their safety and mental health’ when conservative organizations invite speakers to campus, and that student ‘[g]roups get training on what to say to get an event canceled,’” the lawsuit alleged.
The suit claimed the university is jeopardizing free speech and the university's definition of bias is too broad.
Speech First members mentioned in the suit have conservative political viewpoints.
The suit also mentions fired UCF psychology professor Charles Negy, who Spectrum News 13 reported was under investigation after reportedly racist tweets last summer, including saying "black privilege is real."
UCF stated his tweets were protected by academic freedom, but said he was also creating a hostile and discriminatory environment in the classroom, which violates university policy.
The suit said Speech First members are now afraid to express their views after Negy posted controversial opinions.
In a statement to Spectrum News 13, UCF stated:
“We are still reviewing the complaint. However, the University of Central Florida has a long history of supporting free speech and open expression, and believes so strongly in that right it is guaranteed in the first paragraph of our Student Rules of Conduct: ‘The right of all students to seek knowledge, debate ideas, form opinions, and freely express their ideas is fully recognized by the University of Central Florida. The Rules of Conduct … will not be used to impose discipline for the lawful expression of ideas.’ We also expect our students and employees to follow state and federal laws that guarantee freedom from unlawful discrimination, and our policies are meant to ensure that.”