University doubles down on reporting system only weeks after legal firm issues demand letter
Students accused of violating the policy are encouraged not to defend themselves and simply ‘take responsibility for their actions.’
‘There’s a real risk here that speech is going to be chilled even further by this new app, [its] just another way to report each other,’ an attorney told Campus Reform.
Clemson University (Clemson) in South Carolina, announced earlier this month that it is rolling out a new reporting system called RealResponse, making it easier for students and faculty to report “misconduct and integrity issues.”
The app enables students to report incidents by text, keeping the student anonymous. The app also allows the reporter to include photos and videos.
The app was initially designed for “collegiate athletic departments and professional and amateur sports franchises and organizations.”
Only two weeks before, Clemson had received an Oct. 3 demand letter from Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) calling for the university’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy to be changed due to its “overbroad” and “vague” nature.
“We are concerned that the policies infringe on students’ First Amendment rights because they are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, they allow officials to discriminate against the content and viewpoint of speech, and they chill freedom of expression,” the letter read.
Students accused of violating the policy are encouraged not to defend themselves and simply “take responsibility for [their] actions.”
“During this time is not the time to argue your case, or be uncooperative with the staff member,” the policy reads. “Demonstrating that you have learned something from the incident will make the whole process easier for you.”
SLF argues in the letter that no policy should be so broad that “students must hazard guesses as to what conduct or speech is punishable.”
SLF attorney Cece O'Leary spoke with Campus Reform about the demand letter and the new Clemson reporting app.
“Just like how the harassment policy encourages students to report each other any time they feel unsafe or unwelcome, it looks like this reporting app does the same thing. Where it's encouraging students to report each other any time they feel unsafe on campus,” O’Leary explained. “But as we know that is…very subjective and vague term[inology].”
O’Leary pointed out that neither the harassment policy nor the new app announcement lays out a concrete plan of action after a report is raised.
“There’s a real risk here that speech is going to be chilled even further by this new app, [it’s] just another way to report each other,” she said.
When asked about the timing of the university’s announcement, O’Leary admitted it seemed “suspicious.”
“The timing is certainly suspicious and it just underscores that universities feel like they don’t have to answer to anyone and that’s why our letter is especially timely because we will hold universities accountable,” she stated. “Whatever message they might be trying to send with this new app we want to ensure that they are complying with the First Amendment across the board.”
O’Leary told Campus Reform that SLF was monitoring the new developments at Clemson and encouraged students in the meantime to educate themselves about the policies and meet with administrators and “take their concerns to them and express why these policies are so dangerous.”
Campus Reform contacted Clemson for comment and will update this article accordingly.
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