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Watchdog Sounds Alarm on Va. Tech Speech Policy

'Bias Response Teams “gives administrators everywhere license to implement unconstitutionally restrictive measures” against protected speech... '

(John RansomHeadline USA) Calling the Virginia Tech Bias Response Teams (BRT) “Orwellian,” the libertarian think tank Cato warned that it’s “face thinly‐​veiled pressure to stifle [student] expression” from officials on behalf of the university, even if the teams can’t impose discipline in response to reports.

“Whether or not bias response teams can impose formal discipline, the imbalance of power inherent in their proceedings and the ability of such teams to potentially refer students for formal discipline unquestionably leads students to self‐​censor,” reported Cato.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education did a survey about such BRTs in universities across the country and found that BRTs “gives administrators everywhere license to implement unconstitutionally restrictive measures” against protected speech, a finding FIRE filed in a brief to the Fourth Circuit Court against Virginia Tech’s policy.

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“The Court should join its sister circuits in recognizing the chilling effect of Bias Response Teams, and recognize Speech First has standing to seek a preliminary injunction to stop these unconstitutional speech codes,” FIRE declared.

Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin campaigned on protecting First Amendment right on college campuses, but has yet to sign legislation that prohibits BRTs in Virginia.

“Virginia’s universities are some of the most respected in the world, and we’re going to continue to make sure that they stand for the ideals that we all embrace,” Youngkin said when elected. “And having our First Amendment rights fully expressed on our university campuses is really important to me.”

Speech First, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of students, said that Virginia Tech has one of the worst BRTs in the country, according to the Roanoke Times.

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Incidents are investigated by the dean’s office and the campus police, said the Times, even as the university said no criminal proceedings take place.

“But the mere presence of the team, which uses terms such as ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’ to suggest that a crime has occurred, is enough to chill the free-speech rights of some students, Speech First argues,” said the Times.

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