As Americans across the country continue to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Rowe v. Wade, eight law students at American University are under investigation for criticizing a private group chat over a draft abortion verdict leaked last month.
Another student has filed a harassment complaint against the chat group, arguing that their comments discriminate against her for her religious and anti-abortion beliefs.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expressions shared chat logs on their website, highlighting the comments of eight unidentified students accused of harassment in yellow and the complainant’s message in blue.
“I blame James Comey and the stupid letter he sent in 2016,” wrote a student who opposed the ruling, referring to a letter sent to Congress by a former FBI director two weeks before the 2016 presidential election that the bureau would investigate additional emails. Hillary Clinton. Many Democrats believe the move paved the way for Donald Trump’s victory in the White House – and appointed three conservative judges to the Supreme Court.
“What will they do next? A Griswold, Overfell, Loving? “The same student added, naming other Supreme Court decisions protecting the use of contraceptives and the marriage rights of same-sex and international couples.
The plaintiff replied, “James Comey is a patriot who has served his country as director of the FBI. Also as a Republican, I find it insulting that the civil rights of the conservative people would be considered null and void. Overfell Or Loving“
A different student replied, “Can we turn off personal opinions when people process it?” Another student sent an Instagram screenshot to the chat about a protest to the Supreme Court, with a caption that read “Abortion is being banned in class warfare.”
The complainant then wrote, “Everyone has the right to their opinion and you are all welcome to protest. I find it interesting how the call to silence our personal opinions comes after I defended my deeply held religious beliefs and yet no one mentions the same feelings about posts supporting abortion. I grew up standing up for my values, so the unfounded claim that banning abortion is a ‘class war’ is deeply offensive to both me and my Greek Orthodox faith. “
“There was a request for information about the abortion protest. No one wanted to know your personal opinion, ”read a student’s response. “If people come to terms with the fact that they have just lost a constitutional right, it says a lot about you if you don’t have the decency to remain silent.”
Another student wrote, “This problem of abortion doesn’t affect you in the slightest because you live in a male body (I’m guessing) that is not controlled. So stop doing this about yourself and your beliefs, because it’s not. It’s yours and yours. Bigger than opinion. “
On May 25, the American University’s Office of Equity and Title IX informed eight students who participated in the group chat that they were under investigation for violating the university’s discrimination and non-title IX sexual misconduct policy, which prohibits any form of discriminatory harassment.
“[The complainant] It has been alleged that in the week of May 2, 2022, under the respondents [the complainant] Harassment based on political affiliation and religious beliefs, ”the American University said in a statement. “In particular, the complainant alleged that the respondents sent him harassing and threatening messages through the GroupMe social media platform due to his political affiliation and religious beliefs, and that these messages unreasonably interfered with his educational experience.” [The student] Greek Orthodox are identified as Christians and Republicans / Moderate-Conservatives. “
One of the law students under investigation, Daniel Brezina, spoke to Fire about his frustration with the investigation; The other seven could not be identified and are not working with Fire to promote the case.
In an interview with Dr. Higher Ed insideBrezina declined to say which comments contributed to the group chat, but noted that most students in the chat shared similar feelings about conservatives in the Supreme Court.
“I was disappointed that they were investigating,” Brezina said. “I mean, it’s just speech. Undoubtedly there was no harassment. And I was disappointed that the school came to this stage. “
Brezina said she wanted the university to drop the investigation and that the Americans would conduct an informal investigation or prescreen the group chat before launching a formal investigation. He added that the messages did not threaten the complainant.
“Perhaps if there was something really threatening, they might want to investigate, but it’s just a strong disagreement about abortion access and the Supreme Court’s impact,” Brezina said.
Choke student speech
Brezina is not worried about the impact of the investigation on her career, but Alex Morey, director of FIRE’s personal rights defense program, said such an investigation could cause long-term damage, potentially creating a barrier for law students when they apply. Bar
“Although the investigation goes nowhere, [it] Theoretically it could prevent them from future employment or create additional barriers to prevent them, ”Moore said. “So it’s not just an investigation, it’s a big issue that affects the skills of these students – mostly women and women of color, however, who have traditionally had less access to these types of careers.”
Moore said the investigation has set a precedent that could deter other students from speaking out.
“What does this say to other law students who want to have this kind of enthusiastic discussion about constitutional law in American law?” Dr. Moore. “If they do [speak up] And by offending someone, they can grow up with allegations of harassment and discrimination and take their future as lawyers. ”
Moore added that Americans ’investigation into higher education is unusual, as many private institutions have a“ First Amendment-Esc ”policy that protects students’ speech. American University’s Freedom of Expression and Dissent Policy “protects the right to free expression, including freedom of dissent under the law, and is responsible for one’s actions.”
“When [private] Schools do not provide this [free speech] Promise, there’s a huge problem with FIRE, because they’re attracting these top-caliber students and teachers, ”Morey said.
He added that the precedent of ending federal protection of abortion rights in a Supreme Court ruling on Friday was particularly worrying.
“The decision of Rowe v. Wade and Dobbs vs. Jackson is the problem of the day in this country,” Moore said. “And it’s certainly going to be the issue of the day in American law. It’s the biggest, most important legal news of the moment, and American law students should be able to talk about it in an emotional, uncomplicated way as part of their education. And to the extent that Americans censor that discussion.” Maybe, that’s an abomination. “
Asked to comment on the investigation, an American University spokesman wrote via email that the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act prohibits comments about investigations involving students.
“American University is governed by its commitment to the right to freedom of expression, including freedom of expression and responsibility for one’s actions in the context of American law,” the spokesman wrote. “The University’s Student Code of Conduct is designed to support a safe, honest, and inclusive community with a shared commitment to work with mutual respect and to build the highest standards of ethics and ethics among its members.”
Brezina said the investigation forced her to reconsider the views she shared with other students.
“It would make me think twice about talking about different things,” Brezina said. “I will be a little more careful about what I say, for fear that anyone will accuse me of targeting me. [them], Whether it is conservative or any other ideological line. I can be a little more careful now because I don’t want to go through the process anymore. “