Student to receive $80k settlement after suing university for free speech violations

Maggie DeJong says Southern Illinois Univeristy punished her for expressing conservative views.

DeJong says her punishment effectively barred her from 'fully participating' in class discussions due to her views on race, COVID-19, and religion.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) will pay $80,000 to a student after she filed a lawsuit claiming the university penalized her for her conservative political viewpoints. 

Maggie DeJong sued the university in May 2022 after it issued a no contact order that prohibited her from having “any contact” or “indirect communication” with three graduate students who disagreed with her views. 

[RELATED: UPDATE: University pays $165K in legal fees after firing professor for ‘microaggression’]

This settlement helps ensure that what happened to Maggie will not happen to any other student. We are hopeful that this free speech victory opens universities to what they should be—marketplaces of ideas, not echo chambers for one ideology,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Media Relations Specialist Hayden Sledge told Campus Reform.  

“This case teaches universities that they cannot silence students simply because others disagree with what they have to say,” he continued. “Access to education and professional training cannot be conditioned on surrendering the right to free speech. Maggie’s stand should inspire universities nationwide to reaffirm their commitment to serving as our marketplaces of ideas.” 

According to ADF, the lawsuit allows the religious liberty legal group to provide First Amendment training to three SIUE professors, as they will revise their policies to “ensure students with varying political, religious, and ideological views are welcome in the art therapy program.” 

DeJong said the university issued a no contact order against her to discourage discussions between her and her classmates who accused her speech of being “unwelcoming” and “harassing,” the letter reads

The punishment disallowed DeJong from “fully participating” in classes where the students were present and “chilled” her capability to “frequent campus” in fear of being accused of violating the “no contact orders.”  

“Maggie wasn’t given a chance to defend herself,” Alliance Defending Freedom wrote last year. “When they issued the orders, university officials didn’t even tell her what the allegations against her were, and they did not identify a single law, policy, or rule that she had violated.”

DeJong frequently participated in class discussions on subjects such as “race relations, religion, COVID-19 and censorship, typically offering a conservative perspective,” she told Fox News.

She was barred from “fully participating in class discussions” after “defending Kyle Rittenhouse and denouncing critical race theory,” ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhoffer said. 

[RELATED: Christian students receive $800k in free speech lawsuit ruling]

In response, Chancellor James T. Minor released a statement saying he trusts that people will “see beyond the sensationalism of click bait, media reports, and headlines in search of a more complete understanding of the facts.”

“SIUE is unequivocally committed to protecting First Amendment rights and does not have policies that restrict free speech nor support censorship,” he said “SIUE remains committed to free speech, popular or unpopular, offensive or affable, in an environment that embraces the exchange of diverse views on every aspect of human society.”

Campus Reform has reached out to all relevant parties. This article will be updated accordingly.