The University of Michigan on Wednesday filed its initial response to a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, addressing “the mistaken factual and legal premises” upon which the lawsuit is based.

The lawsuit, brought by Speech First Inc., was filed May 8. The lawsuit alleges the university’s policy against harassment and bullying, and its Bias Response Team infringe on the constitutional free speech rights of students.

In Wednesday’s court filing, the university argues that the lawsuit has mischaracterized university policies and programs and “how they have been applied and has painted a picture of the university that does not reflect the true vibrancy of debate and discussion on campus.”

“The policies and programs at issue here are of fundamental importance to the university and its students, and they share an interest in ensuring that the court is presented with a full and fair record on which to base its decision,” the university says.

The university notes there is nothing in university policy that inhibits students from expressing their views on any topic.

The university is seeking to have until June 25 to file its opposition to a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by the plaintiff.

The university’s Standard Practice Guide reaffirms the university’s commitment to free speech. It states, in part, that “expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not only for those who espouse a cause or position and then defend it, but also for those who hear and pass judgment on that defense. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, or in any other way detestable cannot be grounds for its suppression.”

Freedom of speech is a bedrock principle at U-M. Commitment to this principle is reflected in the history, the policies, and the practices of the university. Students, faculty and staff regularly hear and meet a wide range of speakers who bring diverse viewpoints and perspectives to the Ann Arbor campus.

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