LAWSUIT: Free speech org says Iowa State is 'chilling' political speech ahead of caucuses

A lawsuit has been filed against Iowa State University for several policies that are allegedly direct threats to its students' First Amendment rights.

Speech First contends that the university is "chilling student speech" ahead of the all-important Iowa caucuses.

The nonprofit student free speech advocacy group Speech First announced Thursday that it is suing Iowa State University in an effort to “help restore free speech and expression to America’s universities.”

The group cites three specific policies that it claims are an active threat to the free expression rights of Iowa State students, including a chalking ban, a “Campus Climate Reporting System,” and a rule that bars students from sending emails having to do with political campaigns or elections.

[RELATED: OU reverses social media ban on suspended groups amid First Amendment questions]

Speech First asserts that by enforcing this group of policies, the university “has created an elaborate investigative and enforcement regime designed to chill speech concerning political and social issues of public concern.”

“Iowa State University maintains a series of policies that have both the purpose and the effect of chilling student speech,” said Speech First President and Founder of Nicole Neily. “One month out from a major political primary, students have been significantly – and unconstitutionally – burdened from participating in the political process.”  

[Related: EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: UW official tells conservative student with ‘free speech ball’ to move or face the cops]

The group noted particular concern surrounding the volume of Climate Reporting System “bias” reports filed at the university, with 110 reports filed in just its first year of existence. 

“Students credibly fear they will be anonymously reported to university authorities through the Campus Climate Response System, and refrain from speaking on political and religious topics accordingly,” the organization explained.

Campus Reform reached out to the university but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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